Fire rips through Raleigh condo building

Firefighters worked to put out a fire in a condominium building at 3644 Grinding Stone Drive early Wednesday morning

December 22, 2010 4:03:01 PM PST
Eleven people were forced out of their homes by a fire at a condominium complex in north Raleigh early Wednesday morning.Emergency dispatchers say they were called about the blaze at Walden Woods Condominiums on Grinding Stone Drive, just off of Millbrook Road between Capital Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, shortly before 2:30 a.m.

"My sister woke me up, so I was in the bottom level of the house," condo resident Danny Pena said. "They were upstairs so they actually could see the fire coming through the walls."

Pena says she, her mother, her sister and niece knew they had to run for their lives. Pena says she was panicked, but her sister remained calm.

"She woke up everybody," Pena said. "She went outside and started knocking on everybody's door. I couldn't do anything. I was just petrified. I couldn't move. I couldn't react."

Not long after the blaze started, a neighbor across the parking lot also awoke when she felt intense heat in her condo and she and her husband noticed a glow behind the blinds.

"Only thing I could think of was, 'I hope that everybody was able to get out,'" neighbor Tonya Caldwell said. "It was just really devastating to see something like that."

It took 60 firefighter fighters an hour to get the fire under control. But by then, four of the six units were destroyed.

Raleigh Fire Division Chief Brad Harvey says all residents got out safely, but one firefighter suffered minor burns and was taken to the hospital.

The Pena family says although they managed to save only a few documents and lost everything else, including their Christmas gifts, they say they are grateful.

"My life and my family's lives are more valuable than anything," Pena said.

Harvey says all of the displaced residents will move in with family and friends.

The incident report states the cause of the fire has not yet been determined due to structural collapse hazards.

Around noon, firefighters were still watching for hot spots at the complex and putting them out as they flamed up.

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