Ariel Price stood wrapped in a blanket in frigid temperatures as she watched North Charleston firefighters at work on her building.
"It's probably the scariest thing I've ever had happen to me," she said. "It was smoke everywhere."
Price, a psychiatric nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina, was watching TV when she heard a crackling noise and saw flames shooting up outside her window. As soon as she ran to put on jeans and shoes, people were banging on her door telling her to get out.
Wanda Washington had just gotten off work and gone grocery shopping when she arrived home to find that fire had struck her building in Woodhill Place on Rolling Fork Drive, which is off Rivers Avenue.
"I'm just in a state of shock right now," said the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority bus driver.
The blaze late Tuesday afternoon displaced seven families living in the building. There were no reported injuries. The Red Cross was there to provide help for the newly homeless.
A distraught woman arrived at the scene and had to be restrained from going into the building. At that point, officials put up yellow tape to mark off the area. Firefighters tore out charred timbers from the second-floor attic. Two aerial pumper trucks stood at the ready if needed.
Tara Prince, who lives in a nearby mobile home park, said she and Francisco Delacruz saw the flames and banged on doors to alert residents. Delacruz said his daughter, Jessica, 12, called 911 because she speaks better English than he does.
An elderly woman and a man with a baby came out, he said.
Prince said she was breathing in smoke while alerting residents to the danger.
"They were stunned. They didn't even know there was a fire," she said.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, officials said.