Local News

Cigarette blamed for Morrisville apartment fire

Posted October 20, 2009 6:14 a.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2009 4:40 p.m. EDT

— Dozens of people were displaced Tuesday after a fire at the Camden Westwood Apartments in Morrisville, authorities said.

Morrisville Fire Chief Todd Wright said a discarded cigarette on a third-floor balcony started the fire.

A resident called 911 around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to report the fire at the complex at 2100 Summitt Ridge Loop, Morrisville Fire Department spokesman Tony Chiotakis said.

Forty firefighters put out the blaze, which extended from the third floor to the roof. No injuries were reported.

Some apartments have water damage from the sprinkler system and fire hoses, and others have smoke damage. About four units were destroyed.

"Smoke was filling the house. I had no clothes on, jumped up, ran out, tried to go back in a grab what I could, but it was just too full,” said Carl Konrad, who lived on the third floor. "I didn't see any flames until I got outside, and I watched my apartment burn. I got nothing; everything is gone."

Firefighters were able to locate Konrad's cat.

Wright said a fire barrier in the building kept the blaze from spreading further.

"We could hardly get like five to 10 seconds before the smoke all came in," resident Venkatesh Kappala said.

Kappala is a native of India who is in the U.S. on a work visa. He said he feared losing all of his visa documents in the fire and was thankful he was able to recover them after the blaze was extinguished.

"The valuables and everything we weren't really concerned about it because we can get the money back or whatever, but the documents are really what we wanted because that's what we worked for all our life," he said.

The Triangle chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting about 12 families – 30 to 40 people – affected by the fire. Some residents will be relocated to empty apartments in the complex.

Residents said the Camden Westwood complex required them to have renter's insurance, and Red Cross volunteers said they were trying to meet people's needs until insurance reimbursements come in.

Chiotakis said the fire was the biggest the city has seen in four years.