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Authorities: Durham apartment fire not arson

Posted November 19, 2009

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— One firefighter was injured Thursday morning while battling a blaze at Royal Oaks Apartments, authorities said.

Two firefighters fell into the basement through a hole in the first floor, and one suffered minor injuries, authorities said. No other injuries were reported.

Durham firefighter injured battling apartment blaze Firefighter injured in apartment fire

The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. at 3545 Mayfair St. When crews arrived, heavy flames were coming from the first floor, and the fire then spread throughout the building, authorities sad.

Resident Rogelio Garcia-Umstead said a friend called him on his cell phone about the fire, and he grabbed his 2-year-old son and escaped through a breezeway minutes before it went up in flames.

"We couldn't see at all," Garcia-Umstead said. "You couldn't even see right in front of you, there was that much smoke. The most you could see was the floor."

Firefighters spent about three hours putting out the flames and cooling subsequent hot spots, authorities said.

Ten apartments sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage. The Red Cross was working with 20 people, including six children, who were displaced by the fire.

Investigators said the fire started in the basement, but the cause hasn't been determined. They said they don't believe it's arson.

A juvenile was charged with setting an Oct. 6 fire at the apartment complex. The complex also was the site of a fire in the summer of 2006, authorities said.

"We have no indication that this is part of a larger problem," Daniel Curia, assistant chief of the Durham Fire Department, said of Thursday's fire.

Garcia-Umstead, who plans to move into another apartment in the complex, said he wants to know what happened in the latest fire because he worries about it happening again.

"We might not be so lucky," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • anneonymousone Nov 19, 2009

    Firefighters provide a valuable service that we usually only recognize when we are in need; my best thoughts are with this firefighter and all others.

  • firehog400 Nov 19, 2009

    May God Bless the fireman to a full recovery. Pinetops FD

  • just1view Nov 19, 2009

    Everyone wants the code inspector when something is wrong, but few will to allow them to do their jobs of enforcing minimum requirements without complaining.

  • Shaking My Head In Amusement Nov 19, 2009

    another fire huh?? seems to me the code inspector needs to check those Apts out..I hope the firefighter make a speedy recovery :)

    Remember... the "other fire" you're referring to that occured just a few months ago was arson. It very well may be that this is the same scenario. The "other fire" was on Mayfair St which itersects here with Weymouth. It's the same apartment complex and nearly the same building.

  • gingerlynn Nov 19, 2009

    There was a fire there about two years ago that wiped out a building. My daughter had a child in her class that they collected items for. Could it be that much arson? Or compounded by code violations?

  • sssh.. whisper Nov 19, 2009

    Prayers to the firefighter..

    Thank you for your services

  • djcgriffin Nov 19, 2009

    I hope everything ends up ok with that.
    There were MANY fires reported in 2009 in the complexes that are not aging well. I hope that developer consider putting in sprinklers in these newer apartment homes, even if they are not luxury apartments, so that these fires do not get out of hand like this. Preventative measures could save a life. At the very least it could save a trip to the hospital or someone's home.

  • Faceman Nov 19, 2009

    another fire huh?? seems to me the code inspector needs to check those Apts out..I hope the firefighter make a speedy recovery :)

  • Lead by Example Nov 19, 2009

    I hope that the firefighter makes a speedy, full recovery. Thank you for all that you do in your profession.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Nov 19, 2009

    Another fire?