Local News

Onslow County Tragedy May Lead To Tougher Regulations For Mobile Home Living

Posted July 11, 2003

— Four children who were burned in a mobile-home fire faced a critical situation Thursday night.

They were in the hospital recovering from a blaze that killed six other children. Another child and the mother were expected to be released from the hospital Thursday night.

The fire ripped through the family's home near Jacksonville on Wednesday. Investigators said an 11-year-old accidentally started the fire while lighting a candle.

Police say the boy panicked, ran out of the house, then tried to go back in and warn his family. It was too late.

Investigators called the fire a tragic accident -- an accident that might have been prevented by tougher housing codes.

Twelve people lived in the two-bedroom mobile home, and a closet served as a third bedroom.

There are local regulations that outlaw living in such tight quarters.

One woman and 11 children lived in the trailer that measured just 1,000 square feet. That is legal in Onslow County, but not in Raleigh, where housing standards are more stringent.

In Raleigh, a 1,000 square-foot dwelling would have a limitation of about 10 people.

The city of Raleigh has minimum housing standards aimed at protecting the health and safety of residents. A family of 12 in Raleigh would need a home much larger than 1,000 square feet. For 12 people, the magic number in Raleigh would have to be 1,610 square feet.

Towns and counties can adopt their own housing standards. Raleigh laws also ban any more mobile homes from coming in, partly because they can be a fire hazard.

Any trailers seen in the Capitol city were Grandfathered in decades ago.

Onslow County is considering a minimum housing code but hasn't adopted one yet. Raleigh leaders say the tragedy points out why strict standards are important.

It is not clear whether the standards Onslow County is considering would have prevented the loss of six young lives. But the question is sure to weigh on the minds of county leaders in coming weeks.

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