Authorities said this morning, that firefighters had managed to extinguished a massive five alarm, late-night fire that engulfed an apartment building under construction in North Carolina’s capital city. Witnesses said the blaze could be seen sending sparks and ash hundreds of feet into the night sky.
In addition, officials said that about 10 other nearby buildings were damaged by the fire, five of them severely. Local news media reported one firefighter was hurt by falling glass, but no other injuries have been reported. 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 firefighters were still dealing with hot spots late Friday morning.
Pedro Tapiak told the News and Observer of Raleigh that spreading flames caused a construction crane at the complex to collapse. Nearby residents were awakened by the noise and light from the blaze. One witness, Jeff Woodward told WRAL-TV “It’s incredible, the amount of buildings that are burning over there.” “There’s cars exploding up in the parking deck that are burning. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
A fire department spokesperson said that about 130 firefighters worked to contain the flames. But before it could be brought under control, it knocked out power to about 250 customers in nearby buildings, in the restaurant district. “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 one of the restaurants.
As yet, investigators have not been able to get into the wreckage to determine the cause of the fire and several streets remained closed. Fire officials said six floors of a nearby apartment complex were damaged, as were 17 floors of another nearby building. The League of Municipalities building sustained damage to five floors.
Other witnesses spoke of sparks and flying objects amid gusting winds. “There were chunks burning about three feet wide,” said Torrin McBynum, of Garner. “One of them went under my sweater.”
“I saw a huge explosion from a car up there, a lot of sparks falling down,” Ian Martin said. “I even saw some ashes on the roads, like it’s been raining ash.” The building that burned was supposed to have about 240 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments.