The fire broke out about 2 p.m. on the top floor of Building 3, according to Tim Cavender, spokesman for the Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services.
Cavender said it appeared the fire started near the middle of the building and spread from left to right.
Cavender said the fire spread quickly through the top floor of the apartments located behind the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce office off Marietta Highway near Ridge Road.
“Black smoke was pouring from the center area of the building,” he said.
Residents watched as fire personnel worked to tame the blaze, some holding their shirts to their faces to prevent inhaling the thick smoke.
From the parking lot, onlookers could see the building’s roof had been visibly destroyed and water from firefighters’ hoses shot up through the damaged roof of the building.
Zach Bills, who has lived in Building 3 for the past year, said he had just returned from golfing with his girlfriend around 1:30 p.m. when he heard what sounded like heavy objects falling on the ground.
“I ran to the back balcony and from my porch I could see it was blazing,” Bills said.
Bills said he grabbed his dog and some clothes before running out of the building and calling 911.
“It was less than three minutes before it burned to pieces,” Bills said.
As firefighters and police arrived on the scene, they immediately began to go door-to-door in the three-story building making sure all residents were out safely, he said.
Three of the apartments in the building were not occupied, he said.
No serious injuries were reported, but four residents were treated for smoke inhalation, and one woman was taken by ambulance to Kennestone WellStar Hospital for anxiety issues, Cavender said.
As many as 100 firefighters from Canton, Woodstock and Cherokee County converged on the apartment complex, bringing three ladder trucks in to help fight the threat.
Cavender said the top floor of the unit was gutted by the fire, but he was “not sure” if the sprinkler system went off. The lower units in the building also saw extensive damage by fire, smoke and water, he said.
Cavender said heat was a big factor for crews fighting the fire and that officials were constantly rotating the firefighters out to rest.
“We had to put five fighters in two shifts,” he said. “The high temperatures made it difficult.”
There were no reports of firefighters experiencing any severe health problems, Cavender said.
Cavender said crews got the fire under control around 5 p.m., but firefighters were still checking for hot spots Friday evening.
He said American Red Cross was on the scene and the apartment complex manager worked to help residents find somewhere to stay overnight.
Sgt. Stacy Bailey, spokeswoman for the Canton Police Department, said the fire left about 50 residents of the complex without anywhere to stay for the night, but apartment complex management planned to have each family situated in temporary quarters.
Red Cross officials gave displaced residents money for food and immediate needs, but told police the residents would need help with clothes and furniture, as most saw everything they owned destroyed.
Bailey said officials do not yet know the cause of the fire, but city and county officials are working to determine what might have started the blaze.