Lee County -- Fire swept through an apartment complex in South Lee County early Tuesday. Nine families were burned out of their homes at the Spring Lake Apartments on Tallokas Court, one block off U.S.19.
The fire started just after Two AM in the second floor section of this stairwell. It spread up the stairwell to the attic and heavily damaged the three apartments in the top floor.
Investigators spent the morning combing through the debris to figure out what caused the fire. Lightning is one possibility.
It took firefighters about an hour to get it under control. Six lower floor apartments were heavily damaged by smoke and water. Apartment owner Pace Burt says the damage estimate is about $250,000.
As investigators work to figure out what caused the fire, the families who lived their struggle to salvage what they can from their homes.
Stephanie Manos was the first to spot the Spring Lake Apartment fire. "Heard popping noise outside, and got up, looked out the blinds. The stairwell was on fire on the further side from us," Manos said.
Roy Manos said, "Then we started knocking on the doors and trying to wake everybody up and get everybody out." Those knocks awoke Glenn Cook and his wife, who opened their door to see the stairwell engulfed in flames. Cook said "It was horrifying. Not sure how much of the building was going to go up. Making sure everybody was out."
Stephanie Manos said, "It spread really quick. It was amazing how fast it spread."
In the morning the Manos and the Cooks were carrying anything that was not ruined out of their home. "We have a few clothes. Hopefully. Pretty sure the smoke damage in the clothes is going to be bad. Pictures, don't know about furniture yet," Stephanie Manos said
Roy Manos said, "we think we got a few things we can save. Other than that, we've got to start over."
Looking over his damaged apartment, Glenn Cook said he is grateful a lot of people have offered help. Cook said "Both of our jobs, and great many friends have already called and stepped up for us, as well as our community."
All nine families displaced by the fire have been offered replacement apartments by the owner. Cook said they have renters' insurance, but many of their neighbors told them they did not.
State Fire Marshall Investigators say they will check with metrological data to see if there was lightning in the area, to see if that could be the cause of the fire.