Residents check out apartments Saturday, Sunday after historic Raleigh fire
Posted March 18
Updated March 19
Raleigh, N.C. — Downtown Raleigh residents forced to leave their homes as fire raged on Thursday night got an initial look at what they left behind and what's left on Saturday, when they were escorted back to their apartments to pick up belongings. The residents will have a second opportunity to retrieve belongs on Sunday morning.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the City had transported 257 residents of the Link Apartments and The Residences at Quorum Center.
Jonathan Smith said he was worried to enter his parents' condo in The Quorum.
There was damage, but all things considered, Smith said he feels fortunate.
"Glass everywhere, and everything smells like smoke, but we were pretty high up so everything fared pretty well," he said.
His family's condo is on the 12th floor. He and many others spent their morning climbing the stairs to a building still without power.
"It was a little bit of a hike but Raleigh fire department was really nice," Smith said. "They helped us get in and did a great job and so did the Raleigh Police Department."
David Myer lives across the street in the Link Apartments, the building directly next to where the fire started.
Myer said he wasn't home at the time, but he went straight home when he found out what was happening.
"Somebody just told us about the fire," he said. "I ran and got my car out and that's when everything really went crazy."
But Myer too says all things considered, he fared pretty well.
"I was actually very fortunate. I didn't really see any damage on my side. I'm facing the opposite side. I'm very lucky," he said.
Fellow Link resident Molly Jones said the same.
"I kind of prepared myself for the absolute worst, and everything is fine," she said. "The only thing is the blinds are melted and the glass blew out, but that's it."
People who live in the Link Apartments and The Residences at Quorum Center can report to the Raleigh Municipal Building beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday to take a bus to the apartments. The shuttles will run until 1 p.m. Residents who want to get into their apartments after 1 p.m. on Sunday should call 919-996-2999 to make arrangements.
For safety reasons, residents will again be escorted into the building and use the shuttle.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross will also be at the Municipal Building Sunday to help displaced residents.
But it could be months before those residents return for good, Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath said.
McGrath said residents should expect some water and smoke damage, but most possessions should be salvageable.
Ten buildings just east of Raleigh's Glenwood South entertainment district were damaged when a high-rise under construction went down in flames Thursday night. The heat from the fire, which totaled the building that was to be The Metropolitan, toppled a construction crane and melted windows in condominiums of the Quorum Center and the Link apartments.
"I looked out the window and said, 'Oh my gosh, have you called 911? We’ve got to call 911,'" Sherri Henderson said.
She and her husband stayed in their ninth floor condo at the Quorum Residences until the heat cracked their windows.
The Metropolitan, the property under construction bounded by Harrington, Lane, Dawson and Jones streets was to house more than 200 apartments. By Friday morning, it was a pit of wet ash, and glass shards from broken windows blanketed the streets around it.
At least three buildings were evacuated as the fire raged. More than 205 apartments and 37 condos were damaged across three buildings.
"The fire department did an excellent job evacuating the building," said John McInerney of Talis Management, which operates the Quorum Center. "All the residents were evacuated, all the pets were evacuated. No injuries."
Still, he said it could take months to fix damaged units and make them livable again.
"There are still shards of glass hanging from the windows. There’s standing water on the floors," McInerney said.
The League of Municipalities building sustained damage to five floors.
Banner Real Estate Group and Clancy & Theys Construction Company, The Metropolitan's owner and construction company, respectively, released a joint statement thanking firefighters and asking for patience while authorities investigate.
“We thank the heroic firefighters and all first responders who risked their lives to contain this fire and that no loss of life occurred," the statement reads. "While the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, we are working closely with authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and review of the incident.
"To our neighbors and to the surrounding community, we are saddened by this unfortunate situation and ask for your patience as the investigation continues and as we begin the process of site clean up.”
Officials with the Red Cross said they were helping about 40 people who needed a place to stay, meeting one-on-one with displaced families to provide access to resources and tools to support individual recovery.
For displaced residents still in need of assistance, Red Cross caseworkers are available onsite at the Raleigh Municipal Building, 222 W. Hargett St., until 7 p.m. Saturday.
Others found temporary shelter at area hotels. The Hampton Inn at Glenwood South, the Holiday Inn on Hillsborough Street and the Hampton Inn on Hillsborough Street all reported hosting fire evacuees.
Kevin Gicovi, a resident at the Link, said he was getting ready for bed when the fire started. He could feel the heat from the flames before he and everyone else in the apartment packed up what they could and left.
If we had not woken up, if something had gotten worse, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about it," Gicovi said. "It was definitely a scary moment."
Henderson said the help of neighbors was a bright spot in an otherwise dark experience.
"We all look out for each other. We all care a lot about each other," she said. "It’s just been really heartwarming to see how we’ve all come together."