A residential building under construction in Raleigh, North Carolina, was destroyed and nine nearby structures were damaged when a massive five-alarm fire ignited and tore through the city's downtown Thursday (March 16) evening.
Officials are investigating the cause of the historic blaze and no damage estimates have been reported as of press time Friday. Some minor injuries and smoke inhalation were reported.
Initial reports said the fire began after 10 p.m. at the six-story, wood-framed apartment building under construction. It took 130 firefighters three hours to get the flames under control, reports said. Images and videos showed large orange flames leaping through the night sky.
"It's incredible the amount of buildings that are burning over there," a witness told local news station WRAL. "There [are] cars exploding up in the parking deck that are burning. I've never seen anything like this before."
As of Friday morning, crews were still working to keep the flames from reigniting and police were onsite determining if the fire had been set, reports said.
Several roads had been cordoned off and hundreds were without power in nearby buildings on Friday, reports noted.
"Any building that's being built is vulnerable at some point," Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath told media outlets at a news conference Friday. “Unfortunately, this building is at a stage when it was extremely vulnerable, before sprinkler system got in, fire resistant walls were put up.”
McGrath also told reporters that the building was up to code and had been inspected 50 times, most recently on Monday. Officials suggested that the Metropolitan apartment building was about 50 percent complete.
McGrath also said that the fire was the largest in Raleigh since the 1920s.
Other Buildings Damaged
While the unfinished building sustained the bulk of the damage, nine buildings nearby were also scorched by the blaze and windows were busted, reports said.
Five of them were severely impacted. Seventeen floors of the nearby 44-condo Quorum Center and six floors of the 204-unit Link apartment building were damaged, WRAL reported.
Owner, Contractor Statement
In a joint statement, building owner Banner Real Estate Group and general contractor Clancy & Theys Construction said they are working closely with authorities to conduct a thorough investigation and review of the incident.
The companies also expressed thanks to the firefighters and first responders.
"To our neighbors and to the surrounding community, we are saddened by this unfortunate situation and ask for your patience as the investigation continues and as we begin the process of site clean-up."