Building developer says Raleigh fire 'just bad luck'

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William "Bill" Henry spoke exclusively to ABC11 about the fire that sent his $50 million downtown Raleigh project up in smoke.

William "Bill" Henry is spending $50 million to build the Metropolitan Apartments in downtown Raleigh. The real estate developer, based in the Chicago suburbs, was home last Thursday night when he got a phone call telling him, "Your building is on fire."

"The video where the crane fell down was the first one I saw," Henry said. "(I saw) the flames going above the 12-story building right next door and I was like, oh my God."

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ABC11 spoke to Henry by phone to get his take on the inferno and the investigation into what caused it.

Henry said when he got the call about a building fire, he initially thought that meant The Lincoln Apartments, the mid-rise building his company built two years ago on the other end of downtown, which is now 90 percent occupied.

"When I found out it was The Metropolitan (under-construction), not that I was happy, but I was happy that at 9 at night there was nobody that would be on site," Henry said.

READ MORE: The search for answers continues after monstrous downtown Raleigh fire

"You know the sticks and bricks can always be replaced but people can't," Henry said, describing the wood construction materials which fueled the fire that took three hours to get under control.

"The biggest thing, thank God, nobody got seriously hurt," he said.

The Metropolitan was a $50 million project on schedule to open to residents by early fall. Now, it's charred rubble and ash.

Henry told ABC11 that he has heard nothing so far about a possible cause and is hesitant to say anything that might impede the investigation.

"The ATF contacted us on Saturday night and asked us to provide them a waiver to get on site, and we did that. And right now the closest we can get to the site is the construction trailer, and we'll just wait until they complete their investigation," Henry said.

Since the fire, many ABC11 viewers have voiced their concerns about the growing number of wood-frame apartment construction projects underway or recently completed in the Triangle. Henry insists it's a safe way to build.

Where the fire likely started, on the second floor.

"Let's take a look at the case in hand ... wood-frame construction is used throughout the country. It's a standard form of construction," Henry said. "You had a guard on duty, you had two fire hydrants and stand pipes there. That's all per code. So, the building was at a very vulnerable stage. It was just bad luck."

At the scene of the fire, the ATF along with city and state investigators will be back Tuesday morning, sifting through debris, looking for a cause. A source who didn't want to be identified told ABC11 that investigators are focusing on the second-floor construction area as a potential place where the fire began.

Bill Henry says he's expecting it to take at least a week, possibly 10 days, to figure it all out.

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