Bel Air condos gutted as flames spread

BEL AIR, Md. - By the time firefighters arrived at the Hickory Hills condos on Seevue Court in Bel Air, most of the owners had evacuated ahead of the flames.

"The first arriving personnel found a three-story garden apartment with heavy fire coming from all three floors with attached exposures. It's going to be Buildings 106, 108 and 110," said Rich Gardiner of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire & EMS.

"Everybody was worried about me," said Natalie Knox, who lives in a third floor unit, "They knew the fire was coming my way. So my next door neighbors were pounding on my door at 3 o'clock in the morning and they said that they were screaming my name and they were making sure that I was okay."

Fortunately, Knox wasn't home at the time of the fire, but she gave us a firsthand look at the destruction it left behind.

"The roof is basically collapsed onto my bed," said Knox, "Right now my kitchen, dining room, bedroom---there's no roof. It was pouring this morning too so there's a lot of water damage."

For others, it's a total loss.

18 families in all will have to seek assistance from the American Red Cross who showed up with offers of food, clothing and shelter.

"The best thing is that everyone got out," said Gonzalo Hernandez, "Unfortunately, we had a pet that passed away, and that pet did bark enough for the family to get out, but the pet didn't make it."

While all of the victims appear to have insurance to cover their losses, it doesn't ease the pain of seeing their homes severely damaged or turned to charred rubble.

"I came in and dropped to my knees. I'm devastated," said Knox, "This was my first home. I actually own this home. I moved out with my parents and I bought this home. I really gutted the whole thing. It was brand new. I was so proud of it, and to walk in and see the thing destroyed... it's just heartbreaking."

Kurt Aspland lives in another building across the street -- he woke up early this morning to the sound of what he thought was hail on the roof.

"We immediately started running into these apartments just pounding on the doors 'get out get out get out,'" he said.

He heard someone screaming from a unit on the second floor, and opened the door.

"I got in there and no electricity, and smoke so you couldn't even tell anything," he said.  "But then there she was and I was like ‘Whoa there's a real person in here!'"

She was apparently confused on how to get out.

"It was too black and I reached out and grabbed her arm and I said ‘Come on we've got to get out of here' and she goes 'my dog' and I'm thinking ‘Oh great a dog.'"

They made it out -- along with all of the other people who live in the complex.

Paramedics did transport one firefighter to the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center suffering from dehydration, but they have since been released.

The condos did have working smoke alarms.

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