Local News

Raleigh Fire Dept. Recommends Tougher Codes

Posted October 12, 2007
Updated October 13, 2007

— Eight months after a fire destroyed a townhouse complex, the city of Raleigh was preparing to adopt new, tougher building rules to prevent similar tragedies.

The wind-driven fire destroyed 38 townhouses in the Pine Knoll Townes complex off Capital Boulevard in north Raleigh on Feb. 22, 2007.

The Raleigh Fire Department recommended changes to the city's building codes after reviewing a report by independent fire-safety experts that was released in early September. The City Council was expected to discuss them on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

The proposed rules would require builders to use non-combustible material for soffits – the paneling on the underside of eaves – and a certain type of vinyl siding designed to slow the spread of the fire.

Gene Johnson, whose lost his family's townhouse, described the fire as spreading rapidly through the soffits.

"With us, it came from the back wall, up the back. It never entered the house until it hit the soffit and into the attic," he said.

City leaders said the new rules would not prevent a fire, but could keep one from spreading like the Pine Knoll Townes fire. The consultant's report described how the blaze bypassed firewalls between units by passing through the attics.

The Fire Department also recommended raising public awareness about placing combustible landscaping products, including pine straw, away from houses. Investigators determined "carelessly discarded smoking material," possibly a cigarette, caused the fire.

The recommendations will add $300 to $400 to the cost of construction per unit, said Tom Minton, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County.

“The city did a very good job in researching this and looking at what the cause was and not over-reacting,” Minton said. “They have a job to protect the public, and I think they’ve done an outstanding job in making that happen.”

For the Johnson family, it's a small price to pay for all that was lost.

"Any recommendations that can improve either the structure, improve the materials that help this from happening again, that would be fantastic," Johnson said. “We’re just trying to unpack and put everything together again."


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  • Tarheeljunior Oct 13, 2007

    "Common sense should tell you that living in high density dwellings brings extra risk to you and your family."

    High density dwellings are often the only affordable housing options for some individuals. Not everyone can afford their own property. So what do you suggest we all do with our "common sense" in order to protect ourselves and our families. If buildings have no sprinklers and other regulations, we need the government to represent our best interests.

  • donndeboer Oct 13, 2007

    If A company is not forced to use the more expensive fire retardent materials, the bid will ALWAYS go to the contractor who uses the cheaper material because they will always under bid the safety concious company. That is why we have government regulations.

  • papa jim Oct 13, 2007

    I don't think the city of Raleigh has any building codes. the only authority they have is the job to enforce the State Building Codes . any changes to this code have to be approved by the state building code council.

  • whatelseisnew Oct 13, 2007


    I did not say the government should not do what it can. I am just suggesting that people should not rely on government to do it all. There are quite a few folks in New Orleans that learned a terrible lesson (at least I hoped they learned) about what relying solely on government brings. Despite all the media screaming at the federal failure, here is a classic example of three levels of gov failing: City State and Federal. Many people died in that debacle that would not have, had they been able to take care of their own needs.

  • superdad412 Oct 13, 2007

    To: Screename

    I'm a bit miffed why you attacked the viewpoint of "whatelseisnew". Essentially, the poster was stating that long before government existed to "help" people; survivability depended on one taking responsibility for self for the betterment of all citizens in a community.

    You made several good points in your own post, but they are overshadowed by your sarcasm. I think you would have served your points of interest better by adding to the comments whatelseisnew, rather than attacking the poster's comments as if you are the fire expert.

    I will remind you that this week has been national "fire prevention week". That's when we firefighters campaign the hardest for all citizens to learn skills, to be responsible for self.... in spite of all the preexisting "codes" and efforts of "government to make us safer".

  • Screename Oct 13, 2007


    You said:
    "Expecting any level of government to protect the public is just wishful thinking. Your best protection is you."

    So are you a volunteer firefighter? I asked an old friend once, why are you a volunteer firefighter? He responded "The best protection I can have is what I am willing to provide". Since I sincerely doubt you are please do not slam the attempts to change code that are going on. These attempts in code changes save the lives of private citizens, and firefighters as well as save millions of dollars in property. Ask any firefighter if they fight fires like they use to and they will answer no. The reason is because of changes in prevention and code. You yourself might remember a time when there were no smoke detectors but now you have them. This too was a change in code.

    This is government working to make us safer. Let them work!

  • LoneWolf72 Oct 13, 2007

    How about addressing the root cause of the fire?

  • whatelseisnew Oct 12, 2007

    Expecting any level of government to protect the public is just wishful thinking. Your best protection is you. Common sense should tell you that living in high density dwellings brings extra risk to you and your family. These townhomes going up is just one small example. The city can pass all the regs it wants to pass, it will do little to prevent these kinds of tragic events.

  • lynddsy Oct 12, 2007

    maybe sprinklers would help too. that's probably out of the question though because it may cost just a little more,