Our view of the big fire in Raleigh

by Rob Tiller


On Thursday night a massive fire consumed a large apartment building under construction just a block from us. We heard a lot of sirens at about 10:00 p.m., and stepped out on the balcony to have a look. The fire spread quickly through the wood framed structure, with flames rising several stories, and a huge black cloud of smoke.

I hate to admit it, but even as I was starting to process that this was a major disaster, I also felt excited.   It was a thrilling sight, the flames glowing and surging.  But it was also horrifying, so much destruction.  I thought of the many Hispanic guys I’d seen heading to the construction site at sunrise, and all their hard work.

I didn’t think much about the dangers initially.  I assumed that at that time of night it was unlikely anyone was on the premises. (As it turned out, there was no loss of life.)  But as the fire continued, we saw windows in the neighboring Quorum building starting to break from the heat, and smoke coming out of the adjacent Links apartments

It got really hot on our balcony, and a few embers almost made it here.  When we saw the tall construction crane burning. I started to wonder if there was fuel that could explode on the site, and started to worry about getting hit by flying debris. I stopped taking pictures and we stepped inside, just before the crane tilted and collapsed. We watched as it fell across Harrington Street, missing the Links apartments and instead hitting an adjacent low commercial building.

After about an hour, most of the structure was gone and the flames were weakening. The firefighters moved in and started hosing down the borders of the site. Ambulances showed up to treat some of them for smoke inhalation.

The next morning, the site was still smoldering. The firefighters were still working, and several groups of other disaster response workers were on the site, with many vehicles. Sally got a visit mid-morning from a police officer, who said that arson was suspected, and asked if we’d seen anything suspicious (which we hadn’t).

We lost electricity briefly, and were without internet for a couple of days. Otherwise, we weren’t physically impacted, but we were shaken. The physical world, which ordinarily seems pretty stable, seems much less so.  Things are pretty fragile, and can come undone so quickly.

Happier days gone by —
the construction site a few days before the fire