DULUTH, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) – A blaze at The Portico Apartments in unincorporated Duluth caused heavy damage to one building and forced the evacuations of approximately 20 residents.

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On Monday afternoon, a 911 caller reported seeing flames from building 100 at and advised that the fire was spreading fast.  Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames showing from the balcony and in the attic of a third-floor apartment unit on the corner of the building. The conflagration caused heavy fire damage to two top floor apartment units and extensive smoke, heat, and water damage to five adjoining apartment units.

Residents in all 16 units of the building were displaced due to the damage and because utilities had to be cut to the entire structure. Apartment Management and the American Red Cross worked together to provide assistance for approximately 20 people.

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Credit: Gwinnett Fire & Emergency Services

Two adult occupants and a child were home in the apartment where the fire started. The man and woman were in the computer room and began to smell an odor of smoke but did not see smoke inside the living space. As the odor progressed, the woman went to check on their son who was sleeping in the bedroom and discovered flames on the balcony of the apartment. The family escaped unharmed and began alerting others to evacuate.

A Fire Investigator responded to the scene for origin and cause determination. According to the investigator, the blaze started on the balcony and appears to be accidental. The investigator was unable to rule out smoking materials as a possible cause for the fire.

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While crews were battling the first blaze, a resident from building 900 approached the scene and advised firefighters that there was a kitchen fire in their apartment. Command assigned available crews to check the fire in the 900 building and additional equipment was dispatched based on a pending CAD call. The second fire was contained to an air fryer in the kitchen and caused minimal damage.