North Charleston fire officials suspect arson in a blaze Thursday night that damaged a vacant apartment building in the Ashley Shores community, where residents have been evicted in recent weeks to make way for a possible new development.

To offer tips

Anyone with information on the fires should call the S.C. Arson Hotline 1-800-92-ARSON or the North Charleston Police Department's tip line at 740-5839.

The fire was reported around 10:40 p.m. at 2856 Casway Lane in the community south of Azalea Drive near Interstate 26, North Charleston Fire Department spokeswoman Bianca Bourbeau said.

When they got there, fire crews saw heavy smoke and flames coming from the row of two-story townhouses. With a quick "exterior attack," Bourbeau said, they doused the fire.

Firefighters stayed on the scene until about 2 a.m. No one was injured, Bourbeau said.

Earlier Thursday evening, firefighters responded to a smaller blaze on the porch of a different home in the same stretch of townhouses formerly known as the Ashley Shores Apartment Complex.

Bourbeau did not immediately say whether investigators thought the two fires were connected.

She also did not discuss the cause of the larger fire, but said that it was "intentional in nature." Most of the damage was found in the apartment's utility room, according to a North Charleston Police Department report.

Residents of the apartment complex, which had more than 100 residents, recently received eviction notices that said they had until June 30 to move out.

North Charleston City Council members said a developer has eyes on the privately owned riverfront property, which is valued at $3.5 million, though no plans for construction have been filed with the city.

Many residents took exception to the abrupt move, expressing anger and apprehension over finding a new affordable place to live.

But to city leaders, the community had become an eyesore. It long struggled with crime and sanitation problems.

The police had been called to the apartment complex 36 times, including 11 incidents involving weapons, since January 2013. They handled a drive-by shooting there this January.

The city also had reported more than 300 health and sanitation incidents in the neighborhood in the past six years.

"We're not upset about it because we had so many police calls," City Councilman Bob King told The Post and Courier last month. "It's something we really need to clean up."

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