An exhaust fan left about two dozen people homeless and caused $500,000 in damages to an apartment building Monday at The Villages of Chapel Hill, fire officials said.
Building L, a two-story structure at 500 Smith Level Road, sustained heavy fire damage to the top eight apartments, Carrboro Fire Chief Susanna Williams said, while the bottom eight apartments had smoke and water damage.
A fire wall protected another five apartments from damage, she said, but the building did not have residential fire sprinklers. The Orange County Fire Marshal’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation have ruled the fire accidental and condemned the building, she said.
The fire didn’t cause any injuries, and Carrboro police said Tuesday that residents’ pets, including a dog that firefighters rescued and two cats that were missing, have been found.
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Vicki LaBelle, executive director of the Central NC Chapter of the American Red Cross said many of those affected had renter’s insurance that will help provide lodging and replace their belongings.
The Red Cross provided food, clothing and other help to residents of four apartments, LaBelle said, but only one needed temporary lodging. Other residents weren’t home, but the Red Cross left business cards in case they need to follow up, she said.
Management at The Villages complex told her they have 10 vacant apartments, LaBelle noted, and are working to get some of the residents resettled.
The Carrboro Fire Department, along with Chapel Hill, White Cross and North Chatham fire departments, responded to the fire call at 5:08 p.m. Monday, evacuating Building L and surrounding buildings. South Orange Rescue Squad, Carrboro Police Department, Orange County Emergency Services and Orange County Animal Control also helped with the response, Williams said.
Chapel Hill public safety spokesman Ran Northam said “big black smoke” was billowing from Building L and “a huge flame” was visible on the top floor.
It took firefighters about 45 minutes to bring the fire under control, Williams said.
Residents took shelter from the cold in Chapel Hill Transit buses during the fire, she said, and fire crews worked into the night gathering their belongings.