No one was injured but several families were displaced after a structure fire broke out Thursday morning at a Hinesville condominium complex. Units from the Hinesville and Fort Stewart fire departments battled the blaze in the middle section of a two-story structure at Magnolia Place Condos.
Hinesville police received a call just after 11:30 a.m. about smoke emanating from the complex off Memorial Drive, according to Fire Marshal Rick Perryman. A full contingency of fire engines from both departments headed for the scene, and responders found two upstairs units completely engulfed in flames. The townhouse-type dwelling houses about 12 condos.
At one point, flames shot through the roof and reached up to 30 feet in the air.
“Both apartments upstairs are gutted,” Perryman said. “There is nothing left — major damage. The apartments downstairs have water damage and some smoke damage.”
As firefighters fought to contain the blaze, distraught families watched as their belongings were destroyed.
Jennifer Hughes said she and her husband, Justin Hughes, had gone to see his doctor and stopped at Walmart. Her neighbor called and told her to come home because her unit was on fire.
“We didn’t know … if it was exactly our unit. I just knew we had to go now and rushed home from Walmart,” Hughes said. “We were told we couldn’t pull in so I just parked the car in the street and ran.”
Hughes said she had only one thing on her mind that minute — her beloved chocolate Labrador, Wyatt. Hughes ran across the parking lot and tried to break through police barricades.
“I wanted my dog,” she said. “He is my baby and I had to get my dog.”
Fortunately, several neighbors already had set the pet free and he was found scared but unharmed.
“I was so happy,” she said.
Several other families were told by neighbors to evacuate the building as the fire spread. According to Perryman, all the residents — and their pets — appeared to escape unharmed.
First responders had the fire contained in about 45 minutes, the fire marshal said. Georgia Power came out and shut off power to the 12 units affected, he added.
“Georgia Power will disconnect the wiring to the middle of the structure so they can turn the power back on to the rest of the units,” he said.
Perryman said the cause of the fire still is under investigation.
“We don’t know. The fire chief still doesn’t know,” Justin Hughes said. “I lost everything. I had all of my money invested in that house.”
The Hughes lived in their condo for the past two years.
“The whole complex is supporting us,” Hughes said. “They offered places to stay at, extra furniture and whatnot. … The whole complex has extended their hand to us.”
The couple is happy that no one was hurt, but they admit the situation is taking an emotional toll on them.
“It hurts,” Jennifer Hughes said.