Local News

Halogen Floor Lamp May Be Cause Of Deadly Raleigh Apartment Fire

Posted March 4, 2002 2:40 a.m. EST

— Raleigh investigators say a halogen floor lamp may have been the cause of a deadly Thursday morning fire at North Hills Terrace Apartments.

The elderly woman who died in the fire lived in a second-floor end unit at the complex, which is located off Six Forks Road near North Hills Mall. Officials say a halogen floor lamp in her aparment may have started the fire.

Raleigh fire and police officers spent hours searching for the victim, assisted by the CCBI. Seven hours after the fire was called in, officials found her in the bedroom area.

They say their efforts were initially hampered by the intensity of the blaze.

Stanford said the first firefighters to arrive on the scene had searched all but one room of that unit when the flames and smoke became too intense for them to continue.

Once the fire and hot spots were extinguished, debris became a problem.

"Both floors collapsed down onto the room that the occupant was in, so all that debris from the upper two stories was on top of her," said Battalion Chief Rusty Styons.

Residents also say the woman had a difficult time getting around, which may explain why she was unable to escape the burning building.

"She was an older lady who lived by herself. She's a sweet lady. It might have been an electrical fire that started it. She had an electric heater," said Alfred Wilson, a neighbor.

The fire also damaged twelve units of the apartment and left 30 people homeless. The apartments were built in the 1960s and do not have sprinkler systems or firewalls. Fire officials said that all but two of the apartments had working smoke detectors.

The Red Cross is at the scene to help the displaced residents. Several are staying at vacant apartments in the same complex.

"We can give food and clothing and help them with a temporary place to stay. We can help replace work tools, basic furnishings. It all depends on their individual needs," said one Red Cross worker. "Our people will sit down one-on-one and they'll talk about what they need, and then we'll be able to provide it."

Crews arrived at the complex, located near North Hills Mall, around 3:30 a.m.

Many families at the apartment complex were simply trying to salvage what little they could. Luis Hernandez credits his dog, 1-year-old Pedro, with saving his family's lives.

"If it wasn't for him, I don't think anyone would've woken up," Hernandez said. "He was barking on and on and on and woke everyone up."

"This guy was outside, and he was telling us to come outside. We came outside, and that's when we saw the flames coming from the roof. I guess we were some of the first people out of the building. Others started coming out, and that's when the firetrucks showed up," said Brandon Wilson, a first-floor resident.

"We had four occupants in and around the building trapped on balconies and trapped behind some of their sliding glass doors," Styons said.

Those four people were taken to the hospital, where they were treated and released. A firefighter was also treated at the hospital.