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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An apartment fire in Wilmington yesterday left five families homeless. Neighbors say a man passing by noticed the fire from the alley and quickly tried to notify tenants of the danger.

From the front of the historic home on Orange Street, you would never be able to tell that there was a devastating fire Wednesday night that ripped through the home, displacing residents in all seven of the apartments and killing two pets.

From the backyard of 806 Orange Street, the damage is apparent. Neighbors say firefighters responded quickly and worked for about six hours to get the fire under control.

“They got here really quickly, and they went in with all their gear, busted out all the windows and got water on it,” neighbor Troy Rudeseal said. “It took them a long time to get it under control, but they did an amazing job.”

Rudeseal lives next door. He says the fire was so big, he was worried it would spread to his home.

“They’re very close together, and the flames were blowing this way, and it was dropping hot ash onto our house, so I was concerned at one point that our house would catch fire, too, because it’s easy for it to spread from house to house,” Rudeseal said.

Investigators say the fire was accidental and started in a wall heater on the second floor. None of the residents were home when it started, but two cats died.

Investigators say there is about $200,000 of damage to the house, which, for now, is not livable. The fire also damaged an estimated $75,000 of personal items.

We tried to talk to one of the victims moving today, but she said she was too upset to talk.

Rudeseal’s home may not have been damaged, as he tried to get valuables out of his house, he lost his wallet. By late last night someone had maxed out all of his credit cards.

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