Downtown Raleigh block reopens 300+ days after enormous fire caused $50M in damage

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A downtown Raleigh block that has been shut down for nearly a year following a massive five-alarm fire that damaged 10 buildings — five severely — reopened Monday, officials said.

CLICK FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE FIRE

The 200 block of N. Harrington Street, between Jones and Lane streets, reopened.

The 300 block of Jones Street, between N. Hrrington and N. Dawson streets, will remained closed.

On Tuesday the 500 block of N. Harrington Street, between W. Johnson and N. West Street, will be permanently closed. The street closure will allow for the groundbreaking on an 11-story mixed-use development. Drivers will be able to access North Harrington Street from West North Street and West Johnson Street.

More than 300 days was more than enough for some Raleigh residents CBS North Carolina spoke with.

“It’s definitely been a little bit of a pain,” said Adam Moore, who started working down the street about six months ago. “[It’s] definitely good news for sure. Kind of avoid a lot of construction and make it easier, really.”

Wes Southern, general manager of Little City Brewing a few blocks away is also happy about the street reopening. He said his business has suffered since the fire shut down the streets in the area. Although business has picked up in recent months, Southern said his business — like many others in the area — definitely took a hit after the fire.

“I believe it would open up, literally, a new avenue to downtown to connect all the businesses and have more of a walkable space as well,” he said. “Once this opens up, we can get a lot more business and a lot more traffic.”

The streets in the area were closed down after a fire occurred March 16, 2017, in an apartment building under construction at the intersection of Jones and Harrington streets.

The fire took more than three hours to get under control.

EARLIER: Cause of massive downtown Raleigh fire ‘undetermined,’ report says

The building was last inspected three days before it was engulfed in flames and was completely compliant, Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath said the morning after the fire.

The construction had been inspected 50 times but was at an “extremely vulnerable” state before a sprinkler system was installed.

Officials said the fire started on the third floor of the building and spread quickly because it was a wood construction and had many flammable construction materials inside.

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In addition to the main building involved, the fire spread to four other buildings, according to Raleigh fire officials. Overall, 10 buildings were damaged — five severely — said Raleigh Fire Division Chief John Fanning.

This was the largest fire in the city of Raleigh since the 1920s, according to McGrath.

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

Some of the buildings damaged included an office building and a residential building. The office building had windows blown out on one side and the apartment building suffered heavy smoke damage and also had windows blown out.

A few hundred people lost power in the immediate area and a construction crane collapsed.

Around 130 firefighters battled the flames with crews working in 90 minute to 2-hour shifts. In addition to the firefighters, 25 apparatus helped work the fire. Fanning said it was one of the worst fires he’s seen.

About two and a half months after the fire, officials released their investigative report.

“After 7 days of over 100 investigators following down every lead, and for the weeks afterwards following up on those leads, it really came down that we could not definitively say what started the fire,” said Fire Chief John McGrath on June 2, 2017.

The Raleigh Fire Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Raleigh Police Department, and SBI worked from March 18, 2017, to March 24, 2017, at the scene investigating the scene of the fire at West Jones Street.

“A number of potential ignition sources were identified within the structure and evaluated,” a release from the City of Raleigh said. “However, after thorough hypothesis, development, testing and evaluation, investigators were unable to definitively eliminate several accidental and incendiary scenarios.”

The report was submitted by the Office of the Fire Chief of the City of Raleigh.

The possible sources of the fire include arson, heating fire started by squatters and electrical sources.

The fire caused an estimated $50 million in damage.

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