Many Displaced in Afternoon Blaze

Photo taken by neighbor Julia Scruggs.
Photo taken by neighbor Julia Scruggs.

A fire yesterday afternoon on Whitemarsh Island forced about 20 families out of their homes in the Hammocks apartment complex. Firefighters say at this point a turkey fryer may be to blame. They don't know what ignited it, but witnesses told investigators they saw the fire start in and around the fryer on an upstairs balcony.

The fire destroyed more than half a dozen apartments on the second and third floors and left a lot of water and smoke damage to several others.

Word about the fire spread quickly, and a lot of people rushed to the island to see if it was their complex or their apartment. It was pretty hectic as 45 firefighters worked the fire and dozens of people looked on.

People desperate for information were stopped at the gate trying to get into the Hammocks, and kids coming home from school didn't know what to think.

"I was kind of worried because I didn't know what was going on yet, because I have animals in the house," said resident Forrest Smithey. "I was kind of upset. Just in case it was my house."

"Everyone was really concerned and standing around to see what was happening," said Mary Anna Nale.

Meanwhile firefighters made quick progress knocking down the fire once they got there, but the damage had already been done. "We can see the units up above it are pretty well gutted," said onlooker Greg Sicilia. "Hopefully some of the stuff is salvageable."

Sicilia says when he showed up, he wasn't too optimistic that his downstairs apartment would be spared at all, but the firefighters surprised him with how quickly they got things under control.

"Right now, I'm just kind of wondering about what we got," he said. "What kind of mess we got."

Crews shut off power to the entire building early last evening, so even people living in apartments that didn't sustain much damage had to find somewhere else to stay.

No one was injured in yesterday's blaze.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite,