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Raleigh property manager in midst of AC upgrades when fire erupted

Posted July 20, 2011

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— The property manager of a Raleigh apartment building that caught fire Tuesday said he was surprised by the blaze because his company has been aggressive in updating appliances, including air conditioning units.

Firefighters say that an electrical disconnect box, which acts like a circuit breaker, on an air conditioning unit sparked the fire.

John Solie, property manager of Gorman Crossing, said Wednesday that his company is in the process of installing all new appliances, including air conditioning units, throughout the complex. Solie said he didn't know if the unit that caught fire had new or older-model equipment.

He said he’ll work with the fire marshal to learn more about what caused the blaze and how he can ensure that air conditioning equipment at the complex is safe.

In 2004, a fire started in a different building at the same complex, at 3801 Gorman St., because of an air conditioning unit. Solie said that his company checked all of the units at the time and replaced outdated equipment. He said they continue to renovate and upgrade apartments as they become vacant.   Cleanup, investigations continue at burned Raleigh apartments Cleanup, investigations continue at burned Raleigh apartments

All 12 units inside the building that burned were damaged. Nine were destroyed.

About 20 residents were displaced. The Red Cross and North Carolina State University, where many of the residents are students, are working to make sure the displaced residents have somewhere to stay.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital to be treated for a back injury Tuesday. No other injuries were reported.

All renters at the complex are required to buy renter's insurance, Solie said.

Many residents returned to the burned building Wednesday to gather belongings. Constance Starkey even had a surprise reunion with her cat, Lula, who ran away from the burning building. 

"I thought for sure this morning that she had gotten under the bed and she was a goner," Starkey said.

But Lula came home to what's left of Starkey's apartment Wednesday morning, while her owner was collecting dishes and clothes.

Starkey's two other pets were rescued by neighbors.


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  • wral41 Jul 21, 2011

    Yeah, working on the AC since 2004. They obviously weren't working very quickly.

  • mfarmer1 Jul 21, 2011

    "I wonder if the fire got rid of the bed bug infestation at the apartment complex..."

    Yes I Imagine It Would.

    I Do Work In The Pest Control Industry, And Heat Is One Way They Can Kill Them. This Is A Big Market And It Is Not Always Easy To Kill Them.

  • mfarmer1 Jul 21, 2011

    RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman

    I did not say this

    mfarmer - "Why would anyone living in an apartment NOT >> want renter's insurance in the first place??"

    I quoted someones comments.

  • erinmeeks24 Jul 21, 2011

    I wonder if the fire got rid of the bed bug infestation at the apartment complex...

  • talksalot415 Jul 21, 2011

    lived there for years and while you sign the lease saying you'll have renter's insurance...you in NO WAY have to prove to them you have it. i'm so sorry this happened to these families/students but i also know not to believe everything I read on this page from experience. we needed a new oven - instead got a new heat unit in it that never worked right. 3 floods in our apt before we were able to get a properly working hot water heater (they just "plugged" the leak). an AC unit that was VERY old and rust when we moved in a few years back and never replaced while we were there....i wasn't surprised to learn a problem with the AC unit caused this fire

  • 1SaneVoice Jul 21, 2011

    From a landlord's perspective it is a bad investment to sink a ton of money into a property only to have tenants destroy it over the course of a few years. It is also worth noting that many local complexes were built in the 70's and 80's and while they were built to code at the time, many would now be considered inefficient and substandard at best. A lot of times these complexes (and many of the local new home developments) were built as cheap as possible and contain undersized HVAC and water heaters as a hidden cost savings to the property owner. Combining these unit's substandard wiring, plumbing, and ductwork with today's high capacity appliances can spell disaster. As for renter's insurance, it's a way for properties to limit their liability and control costs; after all it is a business. It really should be a no-brainer for tenants since it protects your belongings as well as protecting and limiting your liability should you be deemed at fault for a fire or other major damages.

  • Squirreling Dervish Jul 21, 2011


    Per a insurance expert, it is illegal for someone to get a kickback from an insurance company, it's called "rebating" and can get you thrown in jail.

    Most all apartments REQUIRE some form of renters insurance. It is to the benefit of the renter to have it. When I was in college in 1983, I rented an apartment and I had insurance before I even moved in. It's for their own protection to have the insurance and to the benefit of the managers that their renters have it as well. I would NOT live in a place that DID NOT make you have insurance.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 20, 2011

    miseem - "I think a lot of people are reading more into the managers comments than they should. He reports that after a 2004 fire, all units were checked and those that needed to be replaced, were replaced."

    Some have lousy reading comprehension. It's explained in the story.

    Still...many apartment complexes are upgrading because fewer are being new built due to the economy, and that means the existing apartment complexes are competing against one another for business - a business that is steadily waning as many people lose jobs and must move home to mama.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 20, 2011

    mfarmer - "Why would anyone living in an apartment NOT >> want renter's insurance in the first place??"

    Generally those living in places like that are students with little $$$.

    Was all this Renter's Insurance being bought from the same company?

    Was it a company in cahoots with the property owner or manager??

    Why would a property owner or manager REQUIRE it, and not leave it up to personal choice???

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 20, 2011

    Thanking God no one was hurt.

    Having said that, I wouldn't live in a place that required Renter's Insurance. That's a personal choice. What's going on here, the apartment complex getting a kick back off the insurance policies being written for the tenants there?