Residents of 416 Pittsboro St. saw their house go up in flames on Oct. 17.
“Five engine companies for the Chapel Hill Fire Department, including 34 firefighters and additional resources, attacked that fire and put it out,” Ran Northam, a communications specialist for the town of Chapel Hill, said.
The firefighters were able to rescue a cat from the flames before successfully putting out the fire. No injuries were sustained during the fire or in its containment.
“That is still under investigation at this time, we don’t have details as to how the fire began,” Northam said.
Sydney Wood, who lived in the house and is a UNC art major, said she lost all of her art supplies in the fire. She said she wasn't surprised by how ferocious the fire was and how quickly it spread.
“The house was basically a tinderbox — it was built in 1945, so it spread very quickly,” she said.
The fire started downstairs. At first, Wood thought dishes were falling in the kitchen — maybe one of her roommates cooking. But then the fire alarms went off and she saw the flames.
One of her roommates, Darius Homesley, was FaceTiming when the fire started and was still on the call when he ran outside to see the flames.
“At the moment I was just trying to think straight, the whole situation was crazy,” he said. “When I left the house I noticed I had a sock in my pocket — no idea why — and I didn’t have my shirt.”
Another student who lived in the house, Sam Gault, said he remembered being outside with his roommates and staring at the flames before realizing he left his cat inside.
“I had to dive in through my window to look for my cat, but it got too smoky and I had to get out. Luckily the firemen wound up saving my cat,” he said.
The group of roommates were able to find another house to move into within days, but they lost everything in the fire. Some don't have mattresses to sleep on in their new home.
Even after losing their home, the students remain positive and overwhelmed by community feedback.
Homesley said he was grateful the fire happened when it did rather than a situation where people could've gotten hurt.
“We’re getting through though," Wood said. "We’re just happy to be here."
Gault said he thinks fire safety and awareness should be more widespread, especially in college living conditions.
"There are a lot of kids in the same situation we were, with landlords who own a whole bunch of properties and don’t pay them enough attention,” he said.
A campaign was created to raise money for the students.
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