Fire Engulfs Downtown Raleigh Apartment Building Under Construction
Updated 11:43 a.m., 3/17/2017
An under-construction apartment building in downtown Raleigh went up in flames Thursday night.
More than a hundred firefighters worked through the night to extinguish the enormous blaze that engulfed the unfinished building.
Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath said the city had not seen a fire this size since the 1920s. McGrath spoke during a press conference that aired on ABC11 Friday morning.
He said the construction project had been inspected on Monday and everything was up-to-code.
“Any building that's being built is vulnerable at some point, and unfortunately, this building is at the stage where it was extremely vulnerable,” he said.
The blaze damaged 10 nearby buildings, which had been evacuated. Chief McGrath said residents should be able to return to retrieve personal items this afternoon.
“They're going to experience some water damage, possibly,” he said. “They're going to experience, possibly, some smoke damage, but the integrity of their personal items should be intact. Their clothes might need to be laundered, but they should be able to get all their personal items so they can take them while the building is under repair.”
Officials said fire crews will likely spend the rest of Friday extinguishing hot spots around the fire.
Chief McGrath said five people were treated for smoke inhalation and that one firefighter was injured by falling glass. There were no fatalities. The cause of the fire was not known as of Friday morning.
In a statement, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane praised first responders for their service putting out the massive blaze.
"I am grateful that no serious injuries have been reported as this could have been a significantly more tragic event," McFarlane said. "We were reminded of the dedication and skill of our first responders as witnessed when Raleigh firefighters worked tirelessly through the night to first contain and then extinguish the blaze."
I am grateful that no serious injuries have been reported as this could have been a significantly more tragic event. -Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane
According to eyewitness reports, the fire at The Metropolitan building started small but grew very quickly. Because it grew so quickly and because it happened close to the popular Glenwood South area of Raleigh, many photos and videos from onlookers in the area popped up on social media, drawing more attention downtown. Onlookers swarmed to the area, though police blocked off danger areas.
The Metropolitan is a $52 million project on the site of the former Greyhound bus station.
Firefighters were called shortly after 10 p.m. The fire grew so quickly in part because the building was still under construction. Flames reached almost as high as the Quorum building, a 17-story condominium building adjacent to The Metropolitan. The Quorum, as well as other residential buildings in the area, sustained serious damage, though no other buildings caught fire. Nearly all windows from the sides of buildings that faced the fire fell out and sidewalks were littered with broken glass Friday morning.
At one point, a crane toppled over, pulling down power lines and leaving hundreds were without electricity.
The Red Cross is assisting families who were temporarily displaced from neighboring apartment complexes as a result of the fire. Red Cross Casework Teams will offer to meet one-on-one with displaced families to provide access to resources and tools to support individual recovery.
For displaced residents in need of assistance this morning as a result of the fire, they can call the Red Cross Triangle Chapter at 919-231-1602. Red Cross caseworkers are available to help downtown at First Baptist Church located at 99 N. Salisbury St. in Raleigh.
Chief McGrath says anyone looking for official updates about returning home can call the Emergency operations Center at 919-996-2999 Displaced families can also seek assistance at the First Baptist Church.