OVIEDO, Fla. – Residents returned to their homes on Thursday at the Parks Place apartments in Oviedo at the Park days after fire officials said lightning hit the building and caused the fire.
Jeff Stafford and Dale Meagher said they were eating at a nearby restaurant when they saw lightning in the area.
"There was lightning popping all around and it sounded like it hit, but it had taken a while to actually see flames to realize it hit the building," Stafford said.
The pair said they didn't have time to think, just react when they saw the fire.
"We pretty much just took off and ran toward the building, jumped over the gate, pulled the fire alarm," Stafford said.
They went up and down the three-story building going door to door to warn the people inside until first responders arrived.
"Just screaming and yelling," Meagher said.
Oviedo fire officials confirm lightning started the fire. Officials said no one was hurt in the fire.
The property manager said 69 units were damaged and 46 people were displaced, including Sandie Abraham.
"It was very frightening because flames were unlike anything I have ever seen," Abraham said.
Abraham said she was getting ready for bed when the fire started.
She said her apartment wasn't damaged, but some of her neighbors lost everything.
She and other families returned to the building on Thursday to get their belongings, along with more than 100 volunteers. They worked in the rain to help families pack up their possessions into moving trucks and save what they could.
The complex said some residents were placed in other units and others are staying with family.
Pastor Brian Dorn with Action Church said 40 of its members came out to volunteer. He said they wanted to help.
"Right now more than ever we need to show that we're united together and that we're here to help out in any way we can," Dorn said.
Abraham said as traumatic as this situation is, she said she is thankful that no one was hurt and to see the community come together.
"We make the best of a bad situation," she said.
She adds she's grateful to the first responders and the Good Samaritans for their quick actions.
"Right place, right time. We were there. We just acted upon what we saw," Meagher said.
The property manager said the Cross Life Church is accepting donations for families impacted by the fire.