Local News

Fire history: Why Raleigh's 2017 fire got so much larger than Durham's fire

Posted August 12, 2020 6:19 p.m. EDT

— The large overnight fire in Durham may bring back memories of a similar one three years ago in Raleigh. During the historic Raleigh fire, flames spread to nine buildings – it was a much bigger fire.

Many people are asking: Why did the Raleigh fire expand so much farther and cause so much more damage than the Durham fire?

Sandy Kromenacker, a fire expert in Raleigh, compared this Durham fire to the memorable downtown Raleigh fire in 2017, saying, "Both properties were under construction. Both properties had the same type of construction: Woodframe construction."

According to Durham resident Russell Erickson, the flames in Durham on Tuesday night were huge and took about 30 minutes to get under control.

The downtown Raleigh fire, however, was believed to be Raleigh's largest in almost 100 years. Officials said 130 firefighters from the city and around Wake County battled the blaze "into the night."

The biggest differences?

Investigators said a firewall prevented the Durham fire from spreading.

"That really stopped the spread of the fire from getting to the other building," said Chris Iannuzzi, Deputy Chief Durham Fire Department.

"Suppressing that fire within 30 minutes -- it's a miracle," said Kromenacker.

Sprinkler systems would have made a difference in both the Raleigh fire and the Durham fire, according to the experts, who said sprinklers could have confined the fire to the room where it originated and possibly even put the fire out.

In both fires, there were no major injuries, despite the impressive size of the flames. One firefighter was cut by glass during the Raleigh fire of 2017.

Investigators are still working to find a cause. They said getting pictures and videos from witnesses will play a role in helping them determine the cause of this fire.

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