Chief: Raleigh apartment building inspected 50 times before blaze

RALEIGH, N.C. — An apartment building under construction in North Carolina's capital city had been inspected 50 times, most recently on Monday, before it went up in flames near an entertainment district, the fire chief said Friday.

[PHOTOS: Massive 5-alarm fire engulfs Raleigh apartment building]

Several other buildings were damaged when the fire broke out Thursday night, some of them severely, Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath said at a news conference. A firefighter suffered minor injuries and five people were treated for smoke inhalation, he said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

How to help people impacted by the fire:

  • To find help or donate, call the Red Cross Triangle Chapter at 919-231-1602 or 919-996-2999
  • The Raleigh Chamber has offered space to any businesses that needs it
  • Google Fiber in Glenwood South has free internet, food and open desks for people put out by the damage
  • The VCA Triangle Tower Animal Hospital is offering to board pets. Call 919-231-8030
  • Crank Arm Brewery will hold a clothing drive at its W. Davie Street location from open to close on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Rise Biscuits and Donuts locations at Cameron Village and North Raleigh are giving a sandwich and a drink to firefighters, police or EMT who need a recharge

The building's wood-framed construction burned quickly, McGrath said. He said the structure had been inspected 50 times and met all code requirements.

"Unfortunately, this building is at the stage when it was extremely vulnerable, before sprinkle systems got in, fire resistant walls were put up," the fire chief said.

The fire began shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday in the six-story building in downtown Raleigh. The fire was under control about three hours later, although smoke was still rising as firefighters continued pouring water on wreckage that had collapsed to the ground.

Accountant Brent Williams and retirement planner Robert Devay said between water damage from sprinklers and the heat of the burning building about 50 yards across the street, they'd probably lost most of what they owned in the two-bedroom apartment they shared. They were watching the NCAA basketball tournament on television when they saw the flames.

"We were watching it from my room because it got too hot to be on the balcony and the window popped in from the fire," Williams said. "So we decided we should probably leave. So we came downstairs and the police came in and kicked everybody out of the building."

Channel 9’s Live Early Warning Doppler Radar detected the smoke plume from the fire.

Their six-story apartment building's pale green paint was scorched a dark brown and many windows were open to the cold, clear air. Williams said they took nothing but what they were wearing.

Fifteen floors of another building across the street from the blaze were also damaged, fire officials said. That building, which housed a combination of condominiums and the offices of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, was inspected and deemed structurally sound, McGrath said. Several other nearby buildings damaged by intense heat were inspected Friday, he said.

"You don't expect to walk outside and see a towering inferno," Scott Shook, president of the North Carolina Community Colleges Board, who was eating dinner at a nearby restaurant, told The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Plumbing supervisor Joe Meads of Burlington said his crews were working earlier Thursday inside the apartment building, which he estimated was about half completed. All had left for the day hours before the fire was reported, he said as he marveled at the sagging frame remains of the construction crane that Thursday reached about 10 stories above the site.

The building was designed for upper-middle income tenants attracted by the nearby Glenwood South entertainment district and easy walks to work in downtown offices.

The building that burned was supposed to have about 240 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Click to watch video from WRAL and WTVD..

RALEIGH: Fire breaks out at downtown Raleigh building. The structure is under construction, sources say. (LIVE VIDEO via ABC11 WTVD) http://on.wsoctv.com/2nL6kvH

Posted by WSOC-TV on Thursday, March 16, 2017

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