While the weather in North Carolina has been freezing, things were only heating up in downtown Raleigh on March 16. An apartment under construction caught fire. The fire was so large that the entire night sky over the capital city was lit up. The Raleigh Fire Department Division Chief John Fanning said, “This is the biggest fire that I have ever seen in such a condensed area.” The fire was ignited before 10 p.m. and took over three hours to get under control.
While the cause of the massive inferno remains undetermined, dozens of downtown Raleigh residents and businesses remain displaced due to the destruction that the fire left in its wake. The unfinished apartment building where the fire originated, the Metropolitan, was completely destroyed, and at least nine nearby buildings were also damaged, five of which have been called “severe.” Several major streets have been temporarily closed, such as Hillsborough Street, part of Glenwood Avenue, and part of Capital Boulevard.
Expectedly, the blaze drew quite the crowd. In addition to the 130 firefighters that responded to the call, hundreds of people poured into the streets to watch as the flames engulfing a whole fraction of downtown Raleigh were put out. Bystanders were mesmerized by the intense scene. “I got out and I saw the fire, and I’ve just been looking at it,” one man named Jeff Woodward said. Other witnesses reported seeing things such as “chunks burning about three feet wide” flying in the wind and “cars exploding in the parking decks.” Miraculously, the only reported injury was a piece of falling glass hitting a firefighter who has been predicted to make a full recovery.
Although the flames have been put out, there is still an immense recovery process facing the capital city. In addition to the complete demolishment of the unfinished apartment and the fire damage to the surrounding buildings, there is still glass and water damage covering the streets of the area. The fire has been extinguished permanently, but due to extensive repairs and the mere enormity of the fire, it will be a long time before the city of Raleigh forgets the night that fire set the sky ablaze.