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Apartment fire possibly set on purpose

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LAWTON, Okla_Investigators now believe a fire Monday at an apartment complex was intentionally set. They estimate the damage at nearly $80,000.

Firefighters were called to 24th and Northwest Williams at the Apple Run Apartments Monday evening after smoke was seen coming from a second-story window. When firefighters arrived, they found the second floor on fire and no one inside.

No arrests have been made but fire investigators said about a half hour before the fire was spotted there was a group of people believed to be gang members outside the building arguing. Investigators are still trying to determine if anyone from that group may have been responsible for setting the fire. They are also trying to track down two of the building's tenants they have not been able to make contact with.

What may have started out as a small fire grew and went unnoticed until just minutes before firefighters arrived.

"There wasn't much fire showing upon arrival but the fire had been burning a few minutes before it was ever noticed and the heat from the smoke built up pretty severely and was in the upstairs apartments and when the guys were going through there looking for potential victims or someone trying to escape it was pretty difficult for them," Lawton Fire Investigator Chris Woodall said/

Woodall said buildings like apartment complexes present additional challenges for firefighters but say this time they lucked out.

"A residence that houses multiple families and we were just lucky that the two down stairs were unoccupied and the two upstairs no one was home."

The building has been boarded up and while preliminary damage estimates may seem high for such an old building, Woodall said it's not surprising.

"It's deceiving when you look at an older structure, you think it's old, dilapidated, not maintained. You think it's a lesser dollar amount in damage, but in reality when you look at the building like this one, an apartment building of four units, two or three bedroom to replace that the cost is significant and that what you have to look at in regards to fire damage."

The fire marshal's office is asking if you have any information regarding last night fire to call Crimestoppers anonymously at 355-INFO.

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