It happened just after midnight at the Bridges at Southpoint complex near Highway 751.
Authorities said the blaze displaced 30 people and destroyed a dozen homes. One person suffered a minor injury, however one dog died in the fire. Another is still missing.
"The first thing I saw was a fireman who had broken into my door," resident Jordan Price said. "I was like one of the last people to wake up and when I came out, all I saw outside were the flashing lights and just the fire coming from the roof."
Most of the residents in the apartment complex were sleeping when firefighters rushed over. By that time, three floors in the building were filled with flames.
"Pretty terrifying at 12:30 in the morning," resident Jim Majors said. "Smelled like a campfire and just smoke billowing out of the ceiling."
"We stretched the hoses inside the structure to try to combat the fire from the inside. We quickly pulled our people out," said Dan Curia with the Durham Fire Department.
Firefighters attacked from outside of the building, but the damage was done - 12 apartments have been destroyed.
"From what I gathered, most people got out well before me so it seems like everyone is safe. But I hope that they didn't have anything too important in there," Price said.
The fire department later determined that an electrical fire that started in a back closet was to blame.
The Red Cross is helping the displaced residents by providing them with three nights at a hotel.