NORTH LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – More than half a dozen people were sent scrambling out of their homes early Friday morning when a fire broke at their North Lauderdale condo complex and it’s not the first time a fire has caused damage to the complex.

Firefighters were called to the scene around 4:30 a.m. at 206 San Remo Boulevard. More than four hours after smoke and flames first shot through the roof of the complex, firefighters were still trying to put out hot spots after it continually flared back up.

“The flames, it was a lot of flames,” said witness Pritella Murray.

Investigators believe the fire broke out in the attic of a vacant condo unit and because all four condo units share a common attic, the fire destroyed all of the homes.

Jocilan Lewis was one of seven people who live in the building who saw the smoke and ran for it.

“It was frightening, really frightening,” said Lewis. “I could hardly see.”

Lewis got out safely along with her neighbors as firefighters also evacuated two nearby buildings.

Neighbors said fire has torn through this complex before. The neighboring building still has visible damage from a previous fire and there have been incidents in another building in the complex.

Resident Linda Bates said fire engulfed her kitchen last November.

“I was terrified, I grabbed my dogs and my cats and ran outside,” said Bates.

She said it wasn’t the first problem in the condo she rents.

“About three weeks later we’re sitting watching a movie and we’re smelling electrical wires burning every time someone took a shower.”

She said if they hadn’t smelled that the electrical lines for the water heater would have set the house on fire. She suspects today’s fire was sparked by an electrical issue too.  She says she’s not sticking around for another fire.

“We decided. We’re giving up the lease and we’re moving,” said Bates. “I really think they should condemn the place and rebuild it.”

State investigators are still figuring out the cause of the fire which looks like it affected the area just above the electrical meter box.

Luckily, nobody was hurt.

The Red Cross is helping 12 people displaced by this fire, providing lodging and food for three days.

Clinetta Boyd was at work when she learned it was her unit on fire.

“It’s a disaster, she says, “I lost everything.”

“Clothes dresses, shoes.  Now I’m going to have to find a new place for myself and four kids.”

The unit next door that burned 8 years ago remains a charred mess.

James Schuerman, a maintenance man says it started in the kitchen, but the cause is unclear.

Schuerman says he has lived in the complex over 25 years and doesn’t believe there is a universal problem with electrical wiring.


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