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60 displaced by apartment fire

NORCROSS - Sixty people were displaced by a large fire that destroyed a Norcross apartment building early Saturday.

The fire, which broke out about 2:45 a.m. at the Oakbrook Pointe apartment complex on Pirkle Road, reportedly caused significant damage to 12 units, moderate damage to six adjoining units and slight smoke damage to six more units.

The blaze may have been caused by a resident using a grill on a third-floor balcony, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services. While investigators have not determined the exact cause of the fire and are waiting to speak to the residents of the unit where the fire broke out, neighbors said the residents may have used a grill sometime late the night before the fire, he said.

A total of 22 families were displaced, including 23 children, but the Red Cross came to the scene to provide assistance, said

It took a team of about 40 firefighters an hour to knock down the bulk of the fire, and many remained on the scene for hours dousing hot spots, Rutledge said.

Frank Rave, 25, a security guard at the complex noticed the smoke during his rounds. He called 911 and began knocking on doors to alert the sleeping residents.

"We saved a lot of people," Rave said. "It was pretty sad. ... A lot of people lost their homes in a second."

Firefighters determined the blaze started on a balcony and quickly spread to the rest of the building.

The use of grills on apartment balconies violates the county's fire codes, Rutledge said.