Officials: Cigarette caused apartment fire

February 25, 2009 9:31:21 AM PST
Raleigh fire officials say a cigarette started a fire at the Falls Creek Apartments.According to Raleigh fire officials, the fire began just after 6 a.m. Wednesday at the Falls Creek Apartments on Thornton Commons Drive at Thornton Road.

Over 40 firefighters from about six stations were dispatched to the scene.

No injuries were reported.

It was a traumatic morning for resident Alex Camarraso. He awoke to find his mother franticly rescuing from his burning apartment.

"She said, 'Alex, hurry! Hurry!,'" Camarraso told Eyewitness News. "She grabbed my arm and ripped me out my bed."

His parents returned to the apartment to survey the damage.

Fire officials confirmed a cigarette was improplery thrown away on a patio and caused the fire.

"I just had a quick glmpse and I knew the place was on fire because all the windows were covered in flames," Camarraso explained.

Like Camarraso and his family, residents were startled out of their sleep and forced to flee their apartments.

"My wife and I just woke up," resident Justin Flinchun said.

The Flinchuns said they saw the glow of the fire and realized it was the unit to the left of theirs.

Residents were quick to evacute the buildings. Some only worried about grabbing their pets and family members.

"Get what you need and get out," resident Katie Baker said. "[It's] pretty simple. I got my dogs and I got my mom."

Nearly 40 emergency workers and six fire trucks to contained the blaze within an hour.

"We really need to let the public know how dangerous it is," Battalion Fire Chief Keith Tessinear said in reference to discarding cigarettes. "If you smoke, that's fine but you need to be careful how you handle it. Obviously, now people are displaced."

Approximately 30 people are without homes. Those residents include those who lived in the five apartments that were complete destroyed and those who lived in surrounding units.

The building that suffered the most damage is off limits to residents until the complex can install new sprinklers.

The American Red Cross has set up an area inside the complex club house but says it does not know how many of the residents it will help because some are at work.

The Falls Creek fire is the second apartment fire this month that was started by a improperly discarded cigarette.

Two apartments were destroyed at the Hampton Ridge Apartments on February 13. A total of 12 units were left uninhabitable but no one was injured.


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