Fire whipped by gusty breezes and fueled by low humidity sent some residents of a quiet Cabarrus County street fleeing for their lives late Monday morning, destroying two homes and damaging two others.
One firefighter suffered a steam burn, but no other injuries were reported in the blaze, on Bampton Drive near Poplar Tent Road. Cabarrus County fire officials said the proximity of homes in the Poplar Woods subdivision contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.
"It was a matter of seconds," said Kim Anderson, who fled from her house with her 19-year-old daughter and their dog. "Then it jumped to my house."
Two homes were left uninhabitable, and firefighters said they were total losses. At Anderson's house, the master bedroom was destroyed. And a fourth residence suffered heat damage to the side of the house. The homes appeared to be about 15 feet apart.
Cabarrus County Assistant Fire Marshal Doug Steele said a cause hasn't yet been determined but investigators are looking into the possibility that a hot tub may have sparked the blaze behind one of the homes.
Anderson said she saw smoke and flames coming from her neighbor's home.
Fire officials in Cabarrus County said a 911 call was received at 10:50 a.m., and the first fire unit arrived seven minutes later. Winds gusted up to 15 mph at the time of the blaze, and relative humidity levels were extremely low.
Firefighters from seven departments - Odell, Concord, Harrisburg, Mallard Creek, Huntersville, Cornelius, Kannapolis and Davidson - battled the blaze.
Aimee Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Cabarrus County, said that the homes were in compliance with building code at the time of construction, in 1997. At that time, she said, code required at least 12 feet between homes. Hawkins said it appears as if the homes might be further apart than 12 feet, but she said county officials have not determined an exact measurement.
Several residents reported saving their pets, but fire officials said some pet cats were missing.
Meanwhile, neighbors and friends helped Anderson remove clothing and other belongings from her home, while firefighters nearby continued battling some of the hot spots.
Looking at the two destroyed homes, Anderson said, "We're really lucky."
By Steve Lyttle and Meghan A. Cooke
1st alarm2nd Alarm3rd AlarmMultialarmN. CarolinaO'DellResidentialStructure Fire2545BamptonDriveODell01042010