CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Four families were forced to find somewhere else to sleep Sunday night after an apartment complex catches fire.
The Conway Fire Department is investigating the fire that started just before 6 p.m. Sunday night.
According to Battalion Chief Le Hendrick, crews responded to a fire on 12th Avenue in Conway. He says the fire was mainly on the exterior of the apartment complex. Everyone was able to get out safely, but no one is allowed to stay in the building tonight.
The apartment building is not a total loss, thanks to quick thinking and fast action of neighbors that saw the flames.
"I saw lights flickering by my window. I thought maybe it was from taillights in the driveway, but when I looked out, I saw the fire," recalls Chris Lee Spannbauer, who lives behind the apartment complex.
Spannbauer was spending the evening inside with his family when he saw the flames.
"They were about 8 feet high. The fire, it just kept climbing up the back of the house," says Spannbauer.
He quickly jumped into action.
"I yelled to my kids 'everybody up! The house next door is on fire, you call 911! You come with me!' so we couldn't find a hose but we ran around front to make sure everyone was out," explains Spannbauer.
The building has four apartments inside and it is home to seven people, including 3 children.
"In three minutes, it climbed from the ground level up to the roof," says Spannbauer.
The fire was spreading rapidly. With help from his son, Spannbauer was able to find a garden hose and tried to put out the fire.
"I had some firefighter training back in the navy, so I was spraying back and forth and attacking the hotspots," says Spannbauer.
Everyone was able to get out safely.
"I was just sitting in my office and my neighbor came and said 'there's smoke, there's smoke!' and I opened my door and this wave of smoke hit me," says Kirk Battle, a tenant inside the building when the fire started.
Battle says he had no time to think, and just acted. He grabbed his cat and ran out of the building.
"There's really no thinking at all, it's just reaction and instinct," says Battle.
The Conway Fire Department says most of the damage is from smoke and will be investigating to see what started the fire.