By Mike Schuh

BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ) — A woman is being credited with saving lives as two dozen people are forced out of their homes after a three-alarm fire burns through an apartment complex in Harford County.

Mike Schuh reports her timely return from an errand allowed her to spot the fire and take action at the Hickory Hills Condominium complex.

Twenty-four people are alive today thanks to quick actions by a woman sleeping at a neighbor’s apartment.

Erika Dickey’s close friend returned to her apartment as flames began to spark in the complex.

“[She] hit me on the back and said there’s a fire, and I grabbed my son and just ran out,” said Erika Dickey.

Once she realized that she and her son were safe, they ran out into the hall to wake neighbors.

“Some of the occupants were out on a late run and they came back and discovered the fire and certainly assisted multiple people inside,” said Oliver Alkire of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Thankfully, those occupants arrived, due to the fact that the fire moved quickly.

Investigators have determined the fire originated in the laundry room of a lower unit.

“I rushed over here and I was scared to death,” said Erica’s dad, Kirk Dickey, who saw her safe in a truck when he arrived.

Fire officials say eight of the 18 units were damaged or destroyed inside the apartment complex.

“She lost everything, but at least she’s still alive and everybody’s safe,” said Kirk Dickey.

Some occupants with lesser damage were allowed back in to retrieve small items. No one was hurt.

Smoke alarms were working at the time of the fire.

The Fire Marshal’s Office believes that those living in the less damaged apartments could be back into their homes within a day or so.  Damage is estimated at $1 million.

The fire in the 200-block of Crocker Drive started around 4:19 a.m. and took nearly 60 firefighters about two hours to control.

This has been the third fire in the Hickory Hills Condominium complex with previous fires in 2010 and earlier this year on April 12. The fire in 2010 was determined to be the result of careless discarded smoking material on an exterior deck. The fire in April was determined to have originated in an outside common service area and while the fire remains under investigation, officials say there has been no evidence the fire was the result of an intentional act.

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