NORFOLK, Va. - A Monday night fire at the Norview Garden Apartments off Sewells Point Road left 17 adults and three children displaced from their homes, according to officials with Norfolk Fire-Rescue.
"My kids almost lost their lives," said William Dotson, a resident of Norview Gardens Apartments who believes the fire may have started inside or near his home.
Tuesday morning, Dotson was outside of the apartment building with his wife and two young children, hoping to salvage anything he can from his former home.
Monday night, Dotson says his 2-year-old and 5-year-old were playing when he smelled smoke coming from another room. All of a sudden, his apartment filled with smoke.
Dotson says he immediately grabbed his kids and banged on his neighbors' doors to alert them of the fire as his family fled the apartment.
He says there are no secondary exits or fire escapes in the apartment building.
"There's no secondary exit, so if I was trapped I would have had to throw them out the window," Dotson said. "How else would I have gotten them out?"
He also says no fire alarms went off during the fire.
"No smoke detectors [went] off," Dotson said. "They were in the house but they didn't go off at all."
Dotson believes the fire sparked due to an electrical issue, something he claims he's been trying to address with the apartment's property managers for months.
"We've told them numerous times every socket is loose, but nothing gets done until something happens," he added.
Dotson also lost his cat, Scarlette, in the fire.
"I smelled smoke, and by the time I got to [the] bedroom, it was engulfed," he explained. "I barely got out with the kids and the dog. Our cat died."
According to Norfolk Fire-Rescue, three apartments suffered heavy fire damage and five others experienced smoke and water damage.
A GoFund Me has been created to help families displaced by this fire. You can donate here.