Local News

Cousins rescue residents from Raleigh apartment fire

Posted March 30, 2011 1:55 p.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2011 8:56 a.m. EDT

— A fire ripped through a north Raleigh apartment building Wednesday afternoon, but authorities said no one was injured.

The fire started at the Cedar Springs Apartments complex on Spring Forest Road just east of Atlantic Avenue at about 1:20 p.m. Firefighters got the fire under control about an hour later, according to Brad Harvey, division chief for the Raleigh Fire Department.

The fire started in the attic of a 12-unit apartment building and caused the roof to collapse, but investigators haven't yet determined the cause, Harvey said.

Charles Murray, a retired firefighter who happened to be in the area, said flames were shooting 40 to 50 feet above the three-story apartment buildings. He said he could smell smoke at his house about a mile away.

Cousins David Davis and Rufus Evans said they were filling their car's tank at a nearby gas station when they saw smoke pouring from the apartment building.

"It was just smoke at first. We thought someone was just cooking out on the grill," Davis said.

Once they realized the building was ablaze, they sprang into action.

"My cousin was working one side, and I was working one side, just banging on doors, banging on doors," Evans said.

Davis said he was surprised to find a familiar face behind one apartment door.

"I grew up with her, and she had no idea (the building was on fire)," he said. "She was asleep. She thought I was breaking in. I said, 'No baby, the house is on fire. You got to come out of there.' I hadn't seen her in five years."

Laura Spencer, who fled the building in her pink bathrobe, said she was never happier to see an old friend.

"It's like surreal. I'm shocked, but I'm thankful," Spencer said. "If it wasn't for them and the goodness of the Lord, I wouldn't probably be talking to you right now."

Tanya Durand also felt the surreality of the situation when she arrived at the apartment complex to see her father standing outside with the family's two dogs. She said her father had run into the burning building to rescue the animals.

"(It was) just fire, all over the top. It was pretty bad, a lot of smoke," Durand said. "I ran up there and saw my dad standing there with the dogs, just looking shocked."

Durand's parents and 12-year-old sister were among the 16 people left homeless by the fire.

"(With) all the water damage and everything, it's gone," she said of her parents' apartment.

The family moved into the apartment after losing their home to foreclosure six months ago.

"We came over here because they couldn't afford (other places), and now this is gone and they have no idea where they're going to go," Durand said.

Six units at the complex were left uninhabitable. 

Police closed Spring Forest Road to traffic between Atlantic Avenue and Atlantic Springs Road for more than an hour. Westbound lanes were reopened by 3 p.m., and eastbound lanes were reopened about 30 minutes later.

Red Cross assists displaced residents 

Lu Esposito, who works with the Triangle Chapter of the Red Cross, said the organization is helping the displaced residents with food, clothing and shelter. It can cost up to $500 per victim, Esposito said.

“We constantly scramble to keep up with demand,” she said.

While donations to the Red Cross have been steady, the down economy has more fire victims taking advantage of their services, Esposito said. Requests have been up 40 percent this year compared with the same time last year. The Red Cross has spent an additional $60,000 on requests.

The Red Cross said they help one in 10 people in the Triangle with their services every year.