Local News

Investigators focus on living quarters in Raleigh warehouse fire

Posted September 22, 2008 11:37 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 2:53 p.m. EDT

— Investigators believe that a massive blaze that ripped through a warehouse Sunday night might have started near the living quarters of two workers.

Investigators combed through the wreckage, while firefighters put out hot spots inside Hunter and Co. Painterswork, 1022 Hammell Drive, into Monday afternoon.

The building houses several businesses, including a few woodworking shops, and owners came to salvage what they could.

"You put all your life into something, and instantaneously, it's gone," said Wesley Tutor, the owner of a heating and air conditioning company. "A lot of families, a lot of the people that work with us depend on it."

Investigators said they believe the fire started on the second floor in the center of the building.

"There was an occupant living in the area where we think it started," Battalion Chief Jerry Pace said.

Pace said investigators do not think the origins of the fire were suspicious, but the magnitude of the fire means that it could take up to a week to determine its cause.

Investigators interviewed the two men who lived near a workshop in the building where they worked. Their occupation of the building might have violated fire codes.

The half of the building where the men lived was a total loss, fire officials said. No one was injured.

The warehouse was built in the 1950s, so it was not required to have sprinklers. There were no smoke detectors in the building, which housed several businesses, including a few woodworking shops.

An occupant of the building told 911 dispatchers about the fire at 5:34 p.m. Friday, according to the incident report.

Earlier, fire officials had said that neither resident was home when the fire started.

Heavy smoke was pouring from the roof and gables when firefighters arrived, and residents of the area off South Saunders Street said that flames and smoke could be seen for miles.

Seventy-five firefighters labored for two hours to bring the four-alarm blaze under control. The building is set back from the road, so firefighters had to run lines from hydrants up to 1,500 feet away.