It happened around 6:40 p.m. in the 5000 block of Manor Valley Court at the Camden Crest Apartments. The flames spread quickly because the four story building was made of wood and vinyl.
At least 30 units were damaged or destroyed. One firefighter was treated for heat injuries at Rex Hospital.
Some residents that ABC11 spoke to said they had no idea there was a fire until firefighters knocked on their doors.
"The alarms didn't go off, the sensors didn't go off, the sprinklers were not going off," resident Teresa Ellis said.
Officials said they were not able to confirm if the sprinklers went off inside the building.
Smoke could be seen from miles around as residents were told to evacuate.
Firefighters said the fire was so intense that the vinyl of a building 40-50 yards away was melting from the heat.
"Very intense it was like standing in front of a barbecue just kept getting hotter, had to get away," Ellis said.
More than 70 firefighters battled the blaze, and it was brought under control just before 8 p.m. There is just a shell left of the top floor, and a refrigerator was visible from Chopper11 HD.
"Once it got up in the attic it went quick," Division Fire Chief Ronnie Mazell said.
The flames spread quickly because the four story building was made of wood and vinyl.
The Red Cross is assisting those displaced by the fire.