Local News

Raleigh property manager in midst of AC upgrades when fire erupted

Posted July 20, 2011 12:33 p.m. EDT
Updated July 20, 2011 7:18 p.m. EDT

— The property manager of a Raleigh apartment building that caught fire Tuesday said he was surprised by the blaze because his company has been aggressive in updating appliances, including air conditioning units.

Firefighters say that an electrical disconnect box, which acts like a circuit breaker, on an air conditioning unit sparked the fire.

John Solie, property manager of Gorman Crossing, said Wednesday that his company is in the process of installing all new appliances, including air conditioning units, throughout the complex. Solie said he didn't know if the unit that caught fire had new or older-model equipment.

He said he’ll work with the fire marshal to learn more about what caused the blaze and how he can ensure that air conditioning equipment at the complex is safe.

In 2004, a fire started in a different building at the same complex, at 3801 Gorman St., because of an air conditioning unit. Solie said that his company checked all of the units at the time and replaced outdated equipment. He said they continue to renovate and upgrade apartments as they become vacant.  

All 12 units inside the building that burned were damaged. Nine were destroyed.

About 20 residents were displaced. The Red Cross and North Carolina State University, where many of the residents are students, are working to make sure the displaced residents have somewhere to stay.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital to be treated for a back injury Tuesday. No other injuries were reported.

All renters at the complex are required to buy renter's insurance, Solie said.

Many residents returned to the burned building Wednesday to gather belongings. Constance Starkey even had a surprise reunion with her cat, Lula, who ran away from the burning building. 

"I thought for sure this morning that she had gotten under the bed and she was a goner," Starkey said.

But Lula came home to what's left of Starkey's apartment Wednesday morning, while her owner was collecting dishes and clothes.

Starkey's two other pets were rescued by neighbors.