KINGSPORT — A fire at an apartment complex was aided by strong winds on Thursday afternoon, triggering an inferno that totally gutted five units.

All occupants were evacuated and were not injured, though some of their pets could not get out. About 12 people ranging from children to the elderly lost their homes. Some were weeping at the scene, 1031 Union St., as firefighters battled the blaze. Those who lost their homes are being assisted by the Red Cross.

At 3:14 p.m., Central Dispatch was notified of the fire. Kingsport Fire Department Assistant Fire Marshall Barry Carr says firefighters arrived in seven minutes, bringing five engines and a 110-foot ladder. However, flames were already licking along an entire building in the Aspen Ridge complex.

“The wind was definitely an issue,” said Carr. “When we first got on scene, there was heavy fire coming out all the windows and the doors. … It definitely made a difference in our firefighting abilities.”

Another issue was a lack of water pressure from the nearest fire hydrant and through the fire engines. Multiple volunteer fire departments responded to the scene, setting up dunk tanks to furnish water for the KFD units.

Keeping the fire from spreading to additional apartments in surrounding buildings quickly became a priority. Firefighters positioned themselves on all sides of the burning building to pinch off the flames, while the wind cooperated by blowing the fire away from the other structures.

In about two hours, the fire had dissipated. The smoldering remains revealed entire floors of the three-level apartments were gone, along with burned-out vehicles parked in garages on the first floor.

What triggered the fire is under investigation. It could take some time to make a determination, Carr said, given the totally destroyed state of the scene.

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Kingsport firefighters are battling a large apartment building fire off of Union Street.

The fire has gutted several apartments.

Check back later with for more details.