Photos: Christmas Day Apartment Fire Leaves 19 Homeless in Laure -

Photos: Christmas Day Apartment Fire Leaves 19 Homeless in Laurens

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Eight families are without a home after a fire damaged an apartment building in Laurens County. Eight families are without a home after a fire damaged an apartment building in Laurens County.
LAURENS COUNTY, S.C. - Nearly two dozen people are facing a night without their homes after a fire ripped through an apartment building in Laurens.

No one was killed in the fire, although one person was hospitalized with smoke inhalation.

The fire started just before midnight on Christmas Day at Laurens Villa Apartments on Exchange Drive.

The Laurens Fire Department is still investigating what caused this fire, but they say it began in one unit’s kitchen. The fire engulfed three units and then spread to the attic. That caused all eight of the units in the building to catch fire.

Brittany Cantrell has to duck under caution tape to see what’s left of her home. The bitter smell of smoke fills her apartment.

These were not the memories Cantrell was expecting for her baby girl’s first Christmas.

“When I heard about the fire last night, all I could see was her first Christmas just gone,” said Cantrell.

You might call it a Christmas miracle. All her daughter’s Christmas presents, Santa’s cookies, even the stockings were all untouched by the fire that started in her next door neighbor’s apartment as Christmas dinner still sat on the counter.

Cantrell said Christmas would have taken a more tragic turn if her family hadn’t been out of town celebrating at the time.

“Her crib is completely just – the roof is just in it. Her room was the first room the fire touched. And she was napping at my grandma’s at the time, so she would have been in her crib. So I am beyond thankful that I don’t have to go to a funeral or anything this holiday season,” said Cantrell.

None of the units had fire sprinklers. The complex was built long before sprinklers became a requirement for any new apartments and hotels.

The Laurens Fire Department said there have been other fires at Laurens Villa Apartments over the years, but nothing of this magnitude.

The American Red Cross is finding hotels for the families displaced by the fire. Volunteers were on the scene all day helping connect victims to resources. They’ve responded to more than 600 emergencies in the Western Carolinas this year. Right now, they’re helping victims of six fires in the Upstate.

If you’re renting an apartment and the building is destroyed, your belongings inside are not protected unless you have renters insurance. More landlords are now requiring tenants to have renters insurance as a condition of the lease. If you have auto insurance, going with the same company for a renters policy may save you money. Choosing a higher deductible will help lower the premium.

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