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The Daily Tar Heel

Late-Night Fire Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured

Chapel Hill firefighters responded to the blaze at about 11:07 p.m. at the complex off Homestead Road. Fire and emergency service personnel had the fire under control in a little more than an hour.

Chapel Hill police spokeswoman Jane Cousins confirmed a man's body was found Wednesday. She also said no information about the man will be released until his family has been notified.

Chapel Hill Fire Department Capt. Doug Kelly said the man's body was found in one of the second-floor apartments. He also said officials are still investigating the cause of the man's death.

Two residents from the building were taken to UNC Hospitals to be treated for burns.

The blaze caused fire, smoke and water damage to at least eight apartments, while several others suffered smoke and water damage. No estimate for the extent of the damage is available yet.

The Chapel Hill Fire Marshal Caprice Mellon is teaming up with the N.C. Bureau of Investigation in trying to determine the cause of the fire. The investigation could last several days or even longer, according to a news release.

Kelly said that after investigations Wednesday, the origin of the fire was still unknown. He also said the time the blaze started was unknown.

"The fire was through the roof when we got there, so there's no telling how long it had been burning before we got the call," he said.

Kelly also said there were no sprinklers in the building, but it was built long before they were required by law.

Sarah Chaffins, a senior business major and a resident at Brookstone, does not live in the building that was destroyed, but she said she saw the other apartments burn. "(My roommate and I) ran outside, looked over the roof and saw smoke," Chaffins said. "I ran around the side of the building and the whole roof was on fire."

Chaffins said that when the firefighters arrived, they doused her building with water to prevent the fire from spreading. She said that just in case, she and her roommate gathered their valuables and put them in plastic bags.

She said she feared if the fire department had come five minutes later, her building would have burned, too.

"It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced, really," Chaffins said.

"It was just terrifying."

Interim Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said the Chapel Hill police were on the scene to offer assistance to the fire department. "We just provide any assistance we can," Jarvies said. "In a fire situation, we support if they ask us to."

That support comes in multiple forms. Police provide scene security, crisis counseling and media assistance, Jarvies said.

Displaced residents can turn to the Red Cross for help. Alyson Jackson-Snavely, director of emergency services at the Orange County chapter of the Red Cross, said there was a representative from the Red Cross on the scene at about 12:30 a.m. to help the victims. "We provide immediate emergency needs - that includes food, clothing and shelter," Jackson-Snavely said.

The Red Cross is putting up four of the residents in a hotel. "Generally we just do it for the initial 72 hours," she said.

But she added the Red Cross could extend that length of time, considering extenuating circumstances.

The City Editor can be reached


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