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Fire Leaves Some Seniors Homeless

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RALEIGH — A two-alarm fire at the Sir Walter Raleigh Apartments left eight apartments damaged, and eight senior citizens who live there without a home Thursday afternoon.

The fire started in the kitchen of a 9th floor apartment at about 3 p.m. Fire officials evacuated two floors as a precaution.

Janie Lloyd is among the residents who had to get out fast. "I came down the steps, but I was worn out when I got to the bottom."

Lloyd's apartment received so much water damage that she will have to stay temporarily with her daughter -- who worries about her mother in this kind of situation.

"It's bad because they turn off the elevators and they have to walk down the steps so that's the bad part," Emily Stephens said. "These older people can't walk down these steps."

In fact, fires in high-rise apartments for the elderly pose unique challenges for both the residents and the firefighters. Firefighters in St. Louis faced similar challenges earlier this week when flames broke out in a high-rise for the elderly.

Fire officials say with these types of buildings they are forced to think quick and prioritize.

"Life safety is always our top priority so the evacuation of the immediate area in danger, after that it is a matter of containment," Raleigh firefighter Rusty Styons said.

To help contain the flames and smoke, firefighters relied on the building's sprinkler system and fire doors, which all worked perfectly during Thursday's fire.

Fire officials also immediately struck a second alarm because fires in high rises -- like hospitals -- require four-to-five times the manpower.

"That brought our staffing level up on the scene to the point where we were able to assist people coming down the stairs and so forth," Styons said.

Fortunately, all residents got out safely. Four were taken to the hospital with minor smoke inhalation. Many of the displaced residents spent Thursday night at the Sheraton Capitol Center hotel, free of charge. Photographer: Dave Renner

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
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