An early morning fire that displaced two families in the Westhaven community Saturday has been deemed suspicious.
Officials said two women who live side-by-side were forced from their homes along with their children ---- 14 kids in all ranging in age from 11 months to 19 years ---- by the fire.
Assistant Goldsboro Fire Chief Frank Sasser said the broke out at 124 Vanderbilt Circle shortly before 12:25 a.m. The cause remains under investigation.
Annette Butts, 31, and her nine children lived in the apartment that caught fire. Maggie Edwards, 36, and her five children were living in the adjacent apartment at 126 Vanderbilt Circle.
Both families were displaced, Sasser said.
The damage to the residence, owned by the Goldsboro Housing Authority, estimated on a Goldsboro police report at $55,000 ---- $50,000 for the structure and $5,000 for contents.
Butts told firefighters she was awakened by someone beating on her door, Sasser said. He said she woke up, smelled the smoke and saw the flames, and saw someone running away from her back porch.
All 16 people in both apartments made it out safely and without injury, he said.
The fire began in the back porch area of Butts' apartment, burning into a closet area, running straight up the walls to the upstairs area and into the attic.
The bedrooms in Butts' apartment were all upstairs, which was the most severely damaged part of the structure.
Sasser said Butts' apartment was nearly destroyed by the flames, while Edwards' home suffered severe smoke damage and some fire damage to the attic.
Firefighters attacked the blaze by drenching the structure and using a ladder to access the roof where they cut a hole with a chainsaw for ventilation.
Flames were still roaring on the back side of the structure as firefighters extended the ladder onto the roof ---- they were able to walk across it and cut the hole ---- but by the time they reached the roof, the flames were mostly extinguished.
Hot spots still emitted smoke.
Onlookers came out of their apartments to watch as the smoke could be seen from several blocks away.
Several people used their cell phones to record video and snap photos of what was going on.
Vanderbilt Circle was blocked off by police cars and fire trucks while firefighters got the blaze under control.
Sasser said no description was immediately given to authorities of the person Butts said she saw running away from her apartment.
Duke Energy cut the power supply to both apartments.
Goldsboro Fire Captain Chad Cobb said fire investigators wrapped up their work on the scene later Saturday morning, and the investigation has been turned over to the Goldsboro Police Department.
Sasser said the American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the families who were displaced by the fire.