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Raleigh fire victims start fresh; fire investigation continues

Posted March 21

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— The ATF and SBI remained on the scene of the downtown Raleigh fire Tuesday as residents displaced by the blaze began to start over.

Thursday night, Sherri Henderson's window, at the Quorum Center condominiums, overlooked the inferno that engulfed the under-construction luxury apartment building – The Metropolitan.

Henderson is among the scores of displaced residents who are scrambling to start over.

For her, that means moving into a temporary apartment at 401 Oberlin, which waived startup and application fees and is allowing fire victims to sign short-term leases.

Amy Ruggiero said the relief over surviving unscathed is real, but for her and others frustration is setting in.

‘I’m moving in today into another apartment, but I left my building with my slippers, my pajamas, my coat and my dog,” Amy Ruggiero said.

She said the reality of starting fresh is sinking in.

“I was able to go in and get a few clothes and my purse but that’s about it, so I’m just writing the rest off,” Ruggiero said. “For it was just all the adrenaline that I had my moment, my little breakdown.”

The buildings are still too unstable for residents to go inside alone.

They're being told to leave their power on, as inspectors work to assess structural and electrical damage.

Investigators are searching for the cause of the fire, but they said The Metropolitan has been inspected more than 50 times.

It was inspected the Monday before the fire started and was up to code.

There is still no official cause and no estimate on when residents may be allowed back inside.

Banner Real Estate Group, which owns The Metropolitan, said there were security guards posted at the building around the clock, including Thursday night when the fire broke out. The state Department of Insurance said the fire started at a vulnerable time, when nearly everything on site was wooden.

"I think most of all, we're feeling very lucky. It could have been so much worse. That's part of the thing, we feel very fortunate no one got hurt, seriously hurt and that all the pets survived and that the whole downtown didn't burn," said Damian Graham with the City of Raleigh.

One property manager said the situation is literally changing hour by hour, as inspectors continue to comb the scene.

The city is in the process of transferring control of the buildings back to owners so they can begin repairs.

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