A blaze at a West Ashley apartment complex gutted a section of one of the buildings and displaced five families this afternoon.

The fire was reported at 1:40 p.m. in Townhouse Village Apartments at 43 Cedarhurst Ave., according to Charleston Chief Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh.

The complex is behind the St. Andrews library between Ashley Hall Road and North Windmere Drive.

More than a dozen fire trucks and emergency units from Charleston, St. Andrews, North Charleston and Charleston County responded, as about 100 residents stood around watching the action. Thick smoke and flames were pouring from one of the buildings when the first crews arrived. Firefighters evacuated the building and nearby units.

A ladder truck continuously sprayed a pine tree near the burning building to keep the fire from spreading while crews battled the blaze. Fire trucks were positioned throughout the complex in case the fire spread.

The fire burned a hole through the middle of the building.

One apartment was gutted and several adjacent apartments were damaged. Five of the eight units in the building were posted unsafe until they can be inspected, Julazadeh said.

None of the residents was injured. A firefighter was treated on scene for a minor burn.

Nobody was home in the apartment where the fire started, and the cause is under investigation.

Matt and Amanda Bishop were standing in a parking lot across from the burning building in their pajamas holding their 2-year-old daughter. They live in the building where the fire started. They went outside after a boy who lives near them pounded on their door.

“We never smelled smoke until we got outside,” Amanda Bishop said. “It happened so fast. That little boy who was running around pounding on doors, he was the real hero.”

Red Cross volunteers offered to help 10 residents who were displaced by the fire.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.