Local News

Authorities: Durham apartment fire not arson

Posted November 19, 2009 8:13 a.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2009 6:51 p.m. EST

— One firefighter was injured Thursday morning while battling a blaze at Royal Oaks Apartments, authorities said.

Two firefighters fell into the basement through a hole in the first floor, and one suffered minor injuries, authorities said. No other injuries were reported.

The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. at 3545 Mayfair St. When crews arrived, heavy flames were coming from the first floor, and the fire then spread throughout the building, authorities sad.

Resident Rogelio Garcia-Umstead said a friend called him on his cell phone about the fire, and he grabbed his 2-year-old son and escaped through a breezeway minutes before it went up in flames.

"We couldn't see at all," Garcia-Umstead said. "You couldn't even see right in front of you, there was that much smoke. The most you could see was the floor."

Firefighters spent about three hours putting out the flames and cooling subsequent hot spots, authorities said.

Ten apartments sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage. The Red Cross was working with 20 people, including six children, who were displaced by the fire.

Investigators said the fire started in the basement, but the cause hasn't been determined. They said they don't believe it's arson.

A juvenile was charged with setting an Oct. 6 fire at the apartment complex. The complex also was the site of a fire in the summer of 2006, authorities said.

"We have no indication that this is part of a larger problem," Daniel Curia, assistant chief of the Durham Fire Department, said of Thursday's fire.

Garcia-Umstead, who plans to move into another apartment in the complex, said he wants to know what happened in the latest fire because he worries about it happening again.

"We might not be so lucky," he said.