ABILENE, Texas - Fire damaged Building No. 3 of the Mill Creek Apartment complex in the 5000 block of Hwy 277 early Thursday afternoon. No one was injured in the blaze.
Fire investigators said a lit cigarette caused the fire. The cigarette fell from the second floor balcony to the first floor patio and burned the wood there. Then flames spread quickly.
"It was pretty big flames and then a lot, a lot of smoke," said Jeremy Vest, who lives in the second floor apartment that caught fire.
"Within 10 minutes the whole balcony was completely engulfed," said Cheryl Moore, another resident at Mill Cree.
Residents on the ground floor apartment weren't home at the time and those who live on the second floor made it out without injury.
"I smelled smoke and right after I smelled smoke somebody ran upstairs and started pounding on our door and saying, ‘There's a fire on your balcony,'" Vest said.
"I immediately got my phone and called 911 because I was really concerned about the building because it was wooden and it was going up in flames," said Moore.
People watched in horror as smoke billowed out of the building.
"I never thought that my apartment would catch fire," Vest said. "It never even crossed my mind. And then all of a sudden fire. Then fire trucks are rolling in and lots and lots of smoke. So, it's really unreal because it happened so fast."
Firefighters were able to put out the flames in about 30 minutes.
"They got it out pretty quick because it was pretty bad," Moore said.
Vest said after the fire was out he couldn't help but wonder "What my stuff looks like. How much damage has actually been done? What I can salvage and what I can't."
Firefighters said the ground floor apartment suffered significant fire damage. The second floor apartment suffered some damage and the attached laundry room was also partially burned by the flames. Four other apartments in the complex suffered smoke damage.
Total loss from the fire is estimated at $100,000.