GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Four Gulfport families are homeless. Their apartment building on 31st Street was gutted by an overnight fire. The four unit complex is a block east of Hewes Avenue, and two blocks south of Pass Road.
Tucked under a collection of shade trees is a one story building -- and plenty of charred debris. Cheryl Laborde returned to the fire scene Thursday morning "just to see how it all looked. To see if he could save anything he had in there," she said. "But really, you can't."
Laborde was visiting a friend overnight in one of the four apartments divided within the house.
"We were sitting on the sofa," she remembered. It was at that moment, about 1:00 a.m., when she noticed some trouble.
"You could just see flames coming through the window, and smoke, and all that," said Laborde.
The fire ignited a sense of fear. Nine people were suddenly standing on 31st Street, feeling helpless, and homeless.
Chief Pat Sullivan noticed the chaos, and heard what they were asking.
"Were they going to lose their home? What was the damage? Was everybody safe?" he said.
Quick work by 13 Gulfport firefighters contained the damage to just two of the four apartments.
"The problem we have now is that this is an older building," the chief said. "This is a house that had been converted into duplexes. We are now going back with the code office and looking at the code problems that exist on this building."
Until the code violations are fixed, the chief says all four units are off limits.
"Unfortunately the folks that live here are not going to be able to go back into their apartment to live until we're able to take care of the safety issues," Sullivan said.
And with the owner of the apartment building out of the country, Chief Sullivan couldn't say when the repair work would begin.
Gulfport fire investigators found no obvious clues to help them determine why the apartment building burned. So, they've asked the state fire marshal to lend a hand.