A collection of Lynchburg townhomes erupted in flames Thursday, destroying much of the interior of the homes and displacing at least four families.

Two firefighters sustained heat-related injuries as they attacked the source of the blaze. No other injuries were reported.

Emergency crews responded to the townhome complex off Old Forest Road shortly after 6 p.m., according to Kenny Turner, a battalion chief with the Lynchburg Fire Department. When crews arrived they found towering flames rising several feet into the air.

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze for several hours, using a ladder truck to douse the fire from several dozen feet in the air. Other firefighters fought the blaze from the ground and from inside the building.

More than 100 people evacuated their homes as emergency crews swarmed the townhome complex, known by residents as Georgetown Forest. Some poured into the streets fearful the flames might spread to connected and nearby units while others watched firefighters rush inside the burning building.

The fire appeared to inflict most of the damage to the rear of the structure, which was built in 1981, according to property records. In all, four townhomes were damaged by the flames and its thick smoke. Investigators now are working to determine the cause of the blaze.

Just before 6 p.m., Barbara Burns was sitting down to dinner when she heard screaming coming from the adjacent townhome on West Cadbury Drive. She quickly fled her home, finding black smoke and flames shooting from the roof.

Meanwhile in the adjacent home, other residents scrambled to safety. The Rev. Willie Butler said his adult daughter was inside one of the homes with her children when the fire began engulfing the building. All three quickly escaped unharmed, he said.

Butler, who lives on the same street in a home unaffected by the fire, said he was grateful his family managed to flee in time.

“Everything in the home can be replaced. The house can be replaced,” he said. “But not human life.”

The American Red Cross also responded and assisted the displaced.

Fire department officials from several different fire stations across Lynchburg responded to the fire.

The large response presented difficulties for the rest of the city’s emergency response capability. With five engines, an ambulance and several rescue vehicles tied up at the Georgetown Forest site, rescue officials relied on neighboring localities to field other emergency calls inside city limits.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547. 

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