A fire caused by a lightning strike at the Villas at Old South in Bluffton early Friday destroyed one apartment, damaged seven others and left one person homeless.
The blaze was one of five that broke out during storms that swept through the area overnight and sent firefighters "jumping from scene to scene," Bluffton Township Fire District Capt. Randy Hunter said.
The Old South blaze broke out at about 5 a.m., when resident Michael Brown said he heard a popping sound in the attic above his living room.
Shortly after, flames shot down through the ceiling, he said.
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He ran from the apartment, called 911 and began pounding on all the doors in Building 16 to rouse his sleeping neighbors. All of them made it outside before the blaze consumed the roof, Brown said.
"At first, the fire was just in an area above the steps," he said. "It took about five minutes for it to go all the way to the back (of the roof.)"
Red Cross volunteers handed out emergency supplies Friday morning to 12 people and provided financial help to eight of them to replace food and clothing, according to a news release.
Brown's apartment was the only one destroyed. However, five others were damaged by smoke and water, Hunter said.
The remaining two had slight fire damage, Hunter added.
Four engine companies, a truck company, a battalion chief and three staff officers battled the flames for about three hours.
The responders were cleaning up at Old South when they were called to a house fire in Moss Creek at about 8:30 a.m., Hunter said.
Earlier, firefighters responded to two small fires on Lady Slipper Drive in Belfair Plantation and one on Fisherman Lane off All Joy Road in Bluffton. Those fires began at about 2 a.m.
"Fortunately for us, we were able to do a shift change on scene at Old South and got some fresh guys," Hunter said. "Some guys had been fighting fires since 2 (a.m.), jumping from scene to scene."
Firefighters worked for another three hours until about 12:30 p.m. on the Moss Creek fire.
It was difficult to identify the source of that fire because of heavy smoke and high temperatures inside, but once firefighters found the spot, it was under control quickly, Hunter said.
Hunter said firefighters suspect -- but have not determined for certain -- lightning caused the Moss Creek fire, which remains under investigation.
The unoccupied home, owned by a California family, was damaged but not a total loss, Hunter said. Fire burned through the first and second floors through a fireplace in the middle of the home, he said. Damage was confined mostly to the interior.
Follow staff writer Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.