Dogs and wedding rings: Symbols of hope emerge from destruction in Raleigh apartment fire
Posted February 13, 2019 3:03 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2019 8:07 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Nearly two dozen people were coping with the loss of their homes after a fire broke out at a Raleigh apartment complex Wednesday afternoon.
Sky 5 was live over the blaze at about 3 p.m. Flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the building in the 1700 block of Crossroads Arbor Way at the Enclave at Crossroads Apartments.
By 3:30 p.m., flames had been extinguished, but smoke was still coming from the building and crews were working to put out the hotspots. Authorities said it took 70 firefighters about an hour to get the flames under control.
According to the fire chief on scene, there were 16 apartments damaged in the fire, but no one was injured.
Authorities said all residents were able to escape to safety and four dogs and three cats were rescued from apartments.
Tommie Flannery reunited with her 9-year-old Chihuahuas after they were rescued from the burning building. She said the dogs, who are named for her deceased parents, are all she has left.
"When your apartment is on fire and the only thing you have are your two little dogs that you care the most about and that you don't know if you're going to have them," she said of the panic she felt when she learned of the fire.
Resident Amber Ricker said she learned about the fire when a friend called her. She arrived home to find her apartment had been destroyed.
"I just saw my house up in flames. I was completely devastated and shocked to see what happened," she said.
Ricker has not been allowed to return to her apartment yet, but said she fears that she has lost everything she owns.
"I don't know what's [left] in there. There were some pictures of my dad who passed away in there and some really special things, but we don't know," she said.
Resident Jesse Vaughn said he was in the shower when somebody banged on his door to warn him about the fire.
"I just thought it was a package, so then I just kind of ignored it, but then I heard it again, maybe like a minute later, so then I got out and dried myself off and went down and I could see smoke and they said 'fire.' I grabbed my dogs and immediately went outside," he said.
On Wednesday night Vaughn and his wife were fitting plastic bags filled with their remaining belongings into the back of their SUV. There was one other thing they almost didn't get back though.
"They came up to us and said, 'Is there anything you'd like us to get?' and I said, 'Yeah, my wedding ring," Vaughn said.
Vaughn said he took his wedding ring off while he showered and forgot to put it back on in his rush to get out of the apartment.
Although the Vaughns were told that the odds of locating the ring were slim, firefighters were able to find it under several inches of ash on the kitchen table.
"I can't believe it," Vaughn said.
Authorities said they believe the fire started on a second-floor balcony, but the exact cause remains under investigation. Authorities said they do believe the fire was accidental.
Authorities said that the apartment complex plans to move residents impacted by the fire into other unoccupied units within the next few days.