Raleigh motel fire displaces almost 90 people

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A fire at the Raleigh Inn in the 3500-block of Maitland Drive in Raleigh Monday afternoon has some people looking for a new place to call home.

For low-income Raleigh residents, the Raleigh Inn was one of the best deals in town. At $200 a week or $700 a month, it was affordable. However, after a fire broke out on the second floor Monday, there's an air of uncertainty here.

"There's about 20 rooms that you can't return to and I'm one of them," said Raleigh Inn resident Jennifer Bell.

Bell and her 9-year-old son, Sean, are two of 87 residents burned out of the only home they had.

The fire began Monday afternoon. Smoke poured from the three-story residential motel. At first, some residents thought it was a smoke alarm test. They quickly realized it was real.

"I woke up. The alarm was going off, people were screaming, running up and down the hall," said John Woodard.

"We live in the other side and we walked around this side and saw the blaze just blowing up," Melissa Denn explained.

The fire began in a room on the second floor, spread to an adjoining room, then flames burned upwards to a room on the third floor.

Raleigh firefighters said it could have been even worse had the blaze spread to the attic. A hole in the roof was visible from the ground. Firefighters cut the hole to ventilate the hot gasses trapped inside.

Residents quickly evacuated, some toting babies and toddlers swaddled in motel blankets. Dwight Carroll comforted his 3-year-old daughter Naomi, who had been weeping in fear.

"She was just crying hysterically, just kept crying. I told her it was going to be OK," Carroll said.

In all, five residents were taken to Wake Med. Raleigh Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Kendall Hocutt said the injuries were all minor -- mostly smoke inhalation.

Residents like Jennifer and Sean Bell were left to keep warm on CAT buses supplied by the city. They were waiting while the Red Cross worked to find temporary housing.

"This was our home, as with a lot of people out here, and now we have nowhere to go," Bell said.

Jennifer and Sean moved into the motel back in September with plans to move out in the spring when Jennifer got back on her feet. They and the other 85 displaced residents have been moved to a nearby motel by the Red Cross. Others have been allowed to return their rooms.

Fire investigators say the fire began on a mattress in Room 217. The fire has been ruled an accident caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.

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