AIKEN, SC (WFXG) - A fire at an apartment complex in Aiken destroyed 16 apartments and displaced 23 residents, according to the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
The fire started around midnight Tuesday in an upstairs apartment at The Colony at South Park Apartments on Greengate Circle, Capt. David Turno said.
Ernestine Jenkins lives in the now destroyed building, and said she was falling asleep when she smelled something.
"I smelled something burning, and I got up to see what was burning and the closer I got to the door, it got stronger," she said. "Then my neighbor next door came and and was banging on the door and said 'Come on, get out! The place is on fire!' "
A fire that left 23 people without a home Tuesday morning, and completely destroyed 16 apartments.
"When I saw that to the back side over there I'm like 'Wow!' It really just brought it all down back there," Jenkins said.
Officials with the Aiken Department of Public Safety responded to the apartment fire just after midnight, and said when they arrived on scene, the building was engulfed in flames.
Fire crews with the Aiken Department of Public Safety were on scene until about 7 a.m. extinguishing the flames, and they went back to the building Tuesday afternoon to put out a few more hot spots that were left in the building.
Ernestine said no matter how much damage there is, she's just happy everybody made it out safely.
"To know everybody got out safely, you know, I know God was with them because the extent of this damage is really bad, so I'm just grateful that everybody got out safely," said Joanna Hillord, another resident in the apartment complex.
"To know that they look out for one another here and if they see something suspicious or whatever they let people know," said Jenkins.
And now as she looks for a place to live, Ernestine said she's finding strength in her church, and they gave her some words of advice.
"Take it one day at a time," she said.
Officials are investigating exactly what started the fire, and hope to have an exact cause by the end of this week.