CHARLOTTE N.C. -- Fire investigators say a space heater sparked the fire that sent one man to the hospital for smoke inhalation and evacuated a condominium complex behind Park Road Shopping Center.
Residents told NBC Charlotte they were evacuated from The Kimberlee Condos on Reece Road shortly before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, when the fire broke out.
Neighbors said the fire started in a third-story condo at the back of the 1960s-era building.
The Charlotte Fire Department says a portable space heater sparked the fire in the living room of the third-story condo.
“I think everybody was shaken to the core,” said Janie Harris, who also lives on the third floor. She heard the alarm and at first thought it was another drill, until she looked out her front door.
“The doors to the elevator were sealed and the smoke was coming through,” she said, “and smoke was coming out and we realized it was a fire alarm.”
Two people from the condo where the fire started had to be rescued. One was treated on scene, the other was taken to the hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries.
Charlotte Fire Department Chief Jon Hannan said the first fire company to arrive quickly realized they would need more help.
“One reason this went to a third alarm so fast,” he said, “is we want a lot of firefighters here. We wanted to make sure we got all the people to the ground and out quickly.”
In all, 55 firefighters from 13 companies rushed to help. Ladder trucks and engines with their red lights flashing line Reece Road from Park Road to well past the condo building.
It took them 52 minutes to get the fire under control. The unit where the fire started was destroyed, said Hannan.
Once the fire was out, firefighters had to clear the air in the building before residents could return to their apartments.
“This is a wonderful old building. It's probably one of Charlotte's architectural icons,” said Hannan. “A lot of people lived in this building a long time -- a lot of age. We need to make sure all the carbon monoxide, all the smoke is out of the building.”
Chief Hannan said firefighters would monitor the building and its residents during the night to make sure everyone was okay.
The Red Cross was on scene in case anyone needed accommodations, but said all residents found a place to stay if they needed one.
The Charlotte Fire Department estimates the property and contents losses are approximately $25,000.