SouthPark fire: Construction site wasn’t up to NC fire code, investigators say

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Fire Department is releasing more details about the investigation into a deadly fire last month.

Firefighters rescued 15 people on May 18 after the flames broke out at an apartment complex being built on Liberty Row Road near Fairview Road.

Two workers, Ruben Holmes and Demonte Sherrill, were killed.

Last month, Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said the fire began accidentally and started in a spray insulation foam trailer on the ground floor. Workers shared that same information with Channel 9 on May 18.

On Wednesday, Charlotte Fire said there isn’t any new information about the specific source that ignited the fire, but they discovered “multiple accidental heat sources were in the trailer.”

However, the department said the building that caught fire did not meet North Carolina fire code.

Per section 3313 of the state fire code, buildings required to have standpipes should have at least one standpipe for use during construction. According to Charlotte Fire, no active standpipe was installed, and the department said there’s no documentation showing one was installed or operational.


According to Charlotte Fire, a standpipe is piping built into multi-story buildings to which fire hoses can be connected, which allows water to be manually used in a fire.

The department also cited state code section 3308.2 that requires a general contractor to contact the county fire marshal before building more than 40 feet in height at a construction site. At that height, the general contractor is usually requited to inform the fire marshal’s office of their progress.

Charlotte Fire said when the fire broke out on May 18, the building was at least six stories tall, four of which were built with wooden framing. The department hadn’t received any communication from the contractor or builder before that date, so no fire inspection had been performed, Charlotte Fire said.

The department cited a third state fire code, section 3311.1, that requires at least one temporary stairway to be built when a building is at least 50 feet or four stories tall. Investigators said at that point in the building’s construction, at least one exit was required by code. The building did meet that requirement.

That day, four Charlotte Fire trucks were damaged. The department said it doesn’t have much information about them still, but they will make sure they are safe before returning them to service.

“With those apparatus temporarily removed from service, there has been no lapse in emergency response to Charlotte residents, and Charlotte Fire is fully capable of achieving our mission,” a news release from Charlotte Fire reads.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts spoke with the Director of UNC Charlotte’s Fire and Safety Engineering Technology Department Dr. Jeff Kimble.

Kimble said he was troubled by the lack of a standpipe. “It’s actually extremely handy for those people in the fire service,” Kimble explained.

This sentiment was echoed by Valarie Johnson, with the UNC School of Law.

“If there wasn’t an inspection that certainly doesn’t mean there would have been something found. But it raises the question of what would have been found given the severity of the fire and the loss of life,” Johnson said.

Matthews Fire Chief Rob Kinniburgh told Channel 9 that the building was at this most vulnerable period when the fire occurred.

“Once a fire was to start, there is very little other than human effort to slow that fire growth,” Kinniburgh said. “‘Would a standpipe have made a difference if one was working in this instance?’ It may have. But then again, it may not. The extremely rapid fire growth may not have afforded the firefighters the time they needed to get that standpipe in operation.”

(WATCH BELOW: Family, friends say final goodbyes to construction worker killed in SouthPark fire)

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