Local News

Several Residents Homeless After Apartment Complex Fire

Posted December 22, 2005

— Just three days before Christmas, an early-morning fire at a Raleigh apartment complex destroyed at least 10 units and displaced 19 families.

According to fire crews, the blaze started at about 4:52 a.m. at The Woodlands Apartments at Wakefield Plantation off

Oakwood View Drive

.

Jamie Brooks woke up to an orange glow outside her apartment. When she realized the building was on fire, she hurried out with her two daughters.

"As soon as we got out, we heard an explosion," she said.

Firefighters had the fire under control within an hour but are still searching for the cause. Bat. Chief Bert Richards, with the Raleigh Fire Department, said investigators believe the fire started on the outside of the complex, possibly on a deck.

"Each individual unit is 'sprinkled' and had the fires started inside an apartment, the sprinkler systems would have activated and stopped the fire before it became so large," Richards said.

He also said that a firewall in the middle of the building prevented even more damage. Although the 10 units on one side of the firewall were destroyed, those on the other side sustained very little damage or no damage at all.

Shortly before noon, residents were allowed to return to their apartments to get whatever belongings they had left. None of them, however, were allowed to stay at the apartments, because there was no electricity.

Nine families, including Brooks', lost everything.

"All my clothes are gone, all my furniture, everything in the kitchen -- everything that can be gone is gone," Brooks said.

The American Red Cross is assisting the victims with emergency assistance and the apartment complex has placed residents in other units.

Nine-year-old Madeleine Brooks hopes Santa will find her, but has come to realize it is OK if that does not happen this year.

"At first I thought I wasn't going to get anything, but that, 'OK, I'm alive and didn't get in the fire," so, I'm thankful for that."

Efforts were immediately under way to collect gifts for the holidays for 10 other children in the apartments, like Madeleine. On Thursday, Wakefield Elementary School was accepting gift cards The apartment complex is also accepting gifts at the clubhouse and Wakefield Middle School's PTA is collecting cash donations and gift cards for families Friday from 9 a.m. until noon at the middle school.

There were no reports of residents being injured, but a police officer assisting in the evacuation suffered minor burns. He was treated at a local hospital and released.

"You can take it one of two ways," Jamie Brooks said. "We look at it as Christmas again. Christmas is Christmas. It's what it is. It's a blessing we made it out safe."

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