ATF joins Downtown Raleigh fire investigation

(Justin Quesinberry | CBS North Carolina)


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will assist local authorities in their investigation of a Downtown Raleigh fire that caused millions of dollars in damages, authorities said Friday.

The fire, which happened overnight Thursday, damaged a total of 10 buildings. Residents displaced by the fire will be allowed to return tomorrow at 8 a.m., officials said.

CLICK FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE FIRE

“A team consisting of certified fire investigators, forensic mapping specialists, canine teams, electrical engineers and forensic chemists” is expected to arrive Saturday, the agency said.

The specialized team is part of the ATF’s National Response Team which provides state-of-the-art equipment and expert assistance to major fire investigations.

The State Bureau of Investigation and Raleigh fire and police officials are also investigating.

“Investigating a fire of this magnitude requires a number of specialized resources to help determine the origin and cause,” said Charlotte Field Division’s Special Agent in Charge C.J. Hyman. “ATF will work in partnership with state and local fire and law enforcement agencies to assist the city of Raleigh in any way we can.”

RELATED: Massive downtown fire damages 10 Raleigh buildings, 5 severely

The fire started at an under-construction apartment building at the corner of Jones and Harrington streets, according to officials.

The ATF estimated the loss of the partially-constructed building at more than $12 million, not counting damage to other, nearby buildings.

The building was in a particularly vulnerable state because sprinklers had not yet been installed, officials said.

Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath called the fire the largest since the 1920s.

Friday, some residents of nearby apartments were able to get back inside for the first time.

“Besides water damage, I thought everything was going to be covered in soot and smoke,” said Lauren Picone, who had to evacuate her at The Link apartments with her husband. “It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” she said.

She said she was able to gather a few mementos, including her wedding album.

“These things are irreplaceable,” she said.

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