Raleigh apartment fire focuses attention on wood construction in Charlotte

by: Blake Hanson Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Local fire officials says it’s extremely difficult to stop fires like the massive one that tore through a Raleigh building Thursday.

The five-alarm fire destroyed an apartment building that was under construction, which is similar to a fire that hit South End last fall.

A building near the corner of South Tryon Street and Carson Boulevard burned while it was under construction.


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The wood-framed behemoths aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and there are several sites currently under construction in Charlotte that feature wood frames.


(South End building fire)

"I think there are benefits of it, but also there are concerns about it," said Aixi Zhou, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Zhou studies how wood materials burn.

He said the fires can be particularly dangerous for higher buildings.

"You have the studs and then you arrange the panels, it's almost like you're building a huge campfire," Zhou said.

Wood is often used because it's cheap and keeps housing costs down, but experts said there is a vulnerable period once the wood is in place and before there is a sprinkler system.

The Charlotte fire inspector told Channel 9 that once the sites go vertical and start adding combustible materials, inspectors check them every several weeks.

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