"I opened the door, and the flames were pouring out," said Mr. Olmstead, who lives with his girlfriend in the Yorktown Apartments at 2476 McDowell St. "I thought, 'Man, this is really bad.'"
The fire did extensive damage to the upstairs of at least three apartments and has displaced five residents, according to Richmond County fire Lt. G.B. Hannan. No one was injured in the blaze, he said.
A preliminary investigation found that it began in a small laundry room that connected to the outside of Mr. Olmstead's apartment. It is believed to be accidental, but the exact cause was not known Tuesday, Lt. Hannan said.
Austin Boking, 64, who lives next door to Mr. Olmstead, said he was in the living room watching TV when he began to smell smoke. He did a quick check of his stove and dishwasher to see if they were the cause, but then settled back down on the couch.
"Then I heard this guy hollering, and I ran to see what was going on," Mr. Boking said. " I opened the door and like, woof, the smoke all came pouring in."
Mr. Boking said he watched as a man who claimed to be a former firefighter tried to quell the flames with a garden hose.
"That fire was way too much for him," Mr. Boking said. "He did all he could do and did a pretty good job at what he was trying to do."
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.