VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach Fire Department investigators charged a man with arson in connection with an apartment fire that displaced 16 people last week.
Investigators have not released the man's name.
The two-alarm fire began just before midnight on July 25 at the Pembroke Town Center Apartments on Jeanne Street.
Virginia Beach firefighters entered the building to ensure no one was inside but had to quickly get out themselves due to the size and intensity of the blaze.
Captain Michael Carter described the tough conditions inside as, “High heat, low visibility, almost blackout conditions."
"We initially sent crews inside to locate the fire, then flames started coming through the roof, so we had to pull all our interior crews as a matter of safety," said Art Kohn, public information officer for the Virginia Beach Fire Department. "Because once the flames were coming through the roof like that, there was a possible danger of structural collapse."
Fire crews attacked the flames using water cannons on the ladder trucks, allowing them to later re-enter the structure for secondary searches.
The fire, which started in the attic, damaged eight units. Kohn said most of the damage was contained to two upstairs apartments.
Fire crews say it took two hours to get the flames completely out.
“We would’ve loved to be able to knock it back a little bit quicker. You’re going to hear that probably any time you talk to a firefighter. I think overall crews did a very good job," said Captain Carter.
No injuries were reported and the cause is under investigation.
Neighbors like Michael Krechel said, “The fire was pretty intense for a while.” He added he was “scared to death. You know, we were worried that there was somebody in there.”
Tenants, including the Nadled family, said they're thankful for the firefighters' quick response in a scary situation.
"I woke up my son, a lot of smoke went into my nose and ears and it was a burning sensation," said Seodvi Nadled.
They just moved into their second-floor unit this summer. Now, almost all of their belongings are gone, besides the passports firefighters retrieved for them.
Nadled said, "That's the only thing we wanted. The rest of the things we can manage."
The Red Cross is assisting everyone who is now displaced. Firefighters said a majority of them also have renters insurance.