The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday March 20th

Fire in downtown Raleigh leaves 250 displaced, 10 buildings damaged

Investigators are still unsure of the fire's cause.

The fire started in an apartment building being constructed at the intersection of West Jones and North Harrington streets and spread to four other buildings, damaging them severely. Ten buildings were damaged overall.

Over 250 displaced residents of the Link Apartments and The Residences at Quorum Center, two of the buildings damaged by the fire, were allowed to return to their apartments to retrieve their belongings Saturday.

John Boyette, spokesperson for the city of Raleigh, said investigators are unsure when the process will be complete.

“It could take a matter of a few minutes or a matter of a few weeks or a few months, depending the severity of the fire,” he said. “As you know, this was a very severe fire.”

No lives were lost in the blaze, Boyette said.

“We could not have come out any better in what was a really bad situation,” he said. “None of the firefighters were hurt; no one from the general public was hurt. There were some buildings damaged and destroyed, but the main thing is that no human lives were lost.”

Tim Bradley, executive director of the N.C. State Firefighter’s Association, said his organization’s offices inside the Quorum Center were severely damaged by the fire and resulting water damage from the sprinkler systems.

“Our offices face the building that burned, and all the windows on that side were burnt out by the heat, which set off our sprinkler systems in our office,” he said.

Patrick Rand, a professor of architecture at N.C. State University, said at the stage of construction during which the building caught fire, many of the fire-resistant items that would normally be present in a finished building were not yet installed.

“This building was basically unprotected wood at the time it caught fire,” Rand said.

The building code, which is under the state’s jurisdiction, permits this method of construction, Rand said. According to the fire marshal, the building had passed inspection just a few days before it caught fire.

Rand said he thinks parties involved in the investigation are considering the building process.

“I think what’s happening now is that officials, fire marshals, architects, engineers, even owners are asking whether they should build this way in such large dimensions, great numbers of floors and half a city block — especially in an urban area where proximity to other buildings is a concern,” Rand said.

This design attracts developers due to its low initial cost, but Rand said he believes its merits should be reassessed after the fire.

“If we just go with what a developer wants to do, they want to lower first cost,” he said. “That isn’t always the best building, the best architecture, the best permanent solution. It can be risky.”



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