Spatula

3-16-2017 Construction Fire Downtown

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http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article139056083.html

A massive fire broke out Thursday night at an under-construction apartment building in downtown Raleigh.

The building is on Harrington Street between Lane and Jones streets, about a block away from the 42nd Street Oyster Bar.

Fire trucks raced to the area and police blocked off several blocks near West and North streets.

The flanes ignited surrounding vegetation, spreading to nearby utility poles and the Sutton Insurance building on West Jones Street.

Pedro Tapia of Bunn, who works for Baker Roofing, said he was at Cameron Village when he saw the fire. He recognized the crane among the flames as being from the project he’d been working and drove downtown because of his concern about equipment left at the location. His crew was last there on Saturday and were scheduled to return next Tuesday.He said the crane collapsed as he arrived.

“We pretty much lost a lot of money there. I wonder how it happened,” Tapia said.

Pretty astonishing disaster unfolding. I wonder what this will mean for the project's future? 

Edited by Spatula

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If it bans them I'm cool with it. I've always considered it a matter of time until one of them went off. While it is possible to construct relatively safe wood buildings (even wood skyscrapers), the ones going up are nothing like that.

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http://fox13now.com/2017/03/16/videos-show-massive-fire-in-downtown-raleigh/

Some videos of the fire at its peak. Flames topped the height of the 15 floor Quorum Center nearby.

 

LIVE FEED:

http://heavy.com/news/2017/03/raleigh-fire-live-stream-downtown-watch-news-coverage-update-death-toll-cause/

Looks like it's calming down, and they've wrangled it under control now. It spread to some neighboring structures though.

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Find the vid of the tower crane flipping over backwards. Holy jesus. When I left the cars on the parking decks were still burning at 1am. 

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(Seems there are two threads on this subject)

This was just waiting to happen. There are 4-5 of these massive 4-5 story wooden apartment fires around US each year.  Check out Avalon New Jersey Fire (2015) on YouTube for what started out as a small kitchen fire. That was in a finished one of these wooden apartments and several city blocks of buildings where lost in that fire. From video I've seen, looks like Raleigh was just lucky that did not spread to surrounding buildings.

I had a chat with building inspector here in Boone as to why buildings over 3 story here are build with steel and concrete. The comment that stuck with me was, there's cheap and hope for best, and there's good and safer. Impression I got was, that while wood is allowed by code the message got across to developers that if they wanted to go over 3 story and get zoning approval, it should not be wood. I know around here in county and I think in Boone if you want to go over 40ft to peak you have to get special approval.

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Glad to hear the only injury was a relatively minor injury to a firefighter.

Most of these fires happen when the buildings are under construction and fire barriers and sprinklers aren't installed yet. The fire in NJ is quite a bit more disconcerting. Wonder if it had sprinklers?

I am interested to know if the Link Apartments next door are damaged badly enough to be a complete loss?

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1 hour ago, orulz said:

Glad to hear the only injury was a relatively minor injury to a firefighter.

Most of these fires happen when the buildings are under construction and fire barriers and sprinklers aren't installed yet. The fire in NJ is quite a bit more disconcerting. Wonder if it had sprinklers?

I am interested to know if the Link Apartments next door are damaged badly enough to be a complete loss?

Wondering that too. The Harrington face is melted and scorched. The crane just barely missed it...that would have pushed it to near total loss. Quorum is massively effed up and the David Reynolds building was actively on fire. 

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A terrible event; I'm really glad no one was seriously hurt.  I wonder if there will be any repercussions regarding wood-frame apartments in the city . . .

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1 hour ago, Merthecat said:

A terrible event; I'm really glad no one was seriously hurt.  I wonder if there will be any repercussions regarding wood-frame apartments in the city . . .

Unfortunately the city code currently allows it. I have argued for years that these wood framed structures do not belong in dense urban areas, and this is the main reason why. They are much more dangerous and risky than steel and concrete. When you have one of these go up in flames, as the Metropolitan did, you not only loose that building, but it also threatens nearby structures, lives, livelihoods, pets, and anything else in the surrounding area.

This should be a serious wakeup call to the city of Raleigh. They need to stop letting these developers get by with the cheapest construction possible. If they can not afford to build safe structures, then they should not build in downtown Raleigh.

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32 minutes ago, RALNATIVE said:

Unfortunately the city code currently allows it. I have argued for years that these wood framed structures do not belong in dense urban areas, and this is the main reason why. They are much more dangerous and risky than steel and concrete. When you have one of these go up in flames, as the Metropolitan did, you not only loose that building, but it also threatens nearby structures, lives, livelihoods, pets, and anything else in the surrounding area.

This should be a serious wakeup call to the city of Raleigh. They need to stop letting these developers get by with the cheapest construction possible. If they can not afford to build safe structures, then they should not build in downtown Raleigh.

Look, I agree with you, and everybody for that matter, on the fact that cheap construction presents a terrible opportunity for disaster. However, if the city were to require developers to go a safer route, meaning more structurally sound materials, that raises the price of the project, and the price of the units. It's unfortunate that that is the name of the game, but in order to provide "affordable" housing options, it's gonna be made cheaply. Downtown has already priced out a number of people, and that's with developments like this. Think of what developing concrete and steel buildings will do to rents in the area.

That being said, I am intrigued to see what's going to happen to the site, Link and Quorum too. How is this going to affect the development in that area, which was pretty booming. The spaces between Glenwood South and Fayetteville St were seeing substantial amounts of interest and development. I wonder if this cools things down for a bit.

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I think it should be a wake up call for all cities using wood construction,  it should be made fire proof.  I see on TV  it is a pink spray that helps wood from catching fire.   In downtown area of a city no wood construction for apartment should be allow. 

I hope the City of Charlotte take notice and make some changes to their building codes for apartments and condos.

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54 minutes ago, Rufus said:

Look, I agree with you, and everybody for that matter, on the fact that cheap construction presents a terrible opportunity for disaster. However, if the city were to require developers to go a safer route, meaning more structurally sound materials, that raises the price of the project, and the price of the units. It's unfortunate that that is the name of the game, but in order to provide "affordable" housing options, it's gonna be made cheaply. Downtown has already priced out a number of people, and that's with developments like this. Think of what developing concrete and steel buildings will do to rents in the area.

I'm sorry but I don't agree with this at all. The ends do not justify the means. Simply developing affordable housing downtown does not justify creating a huge fire hazard in a dense commercial and residential area within a booming city.

I'm certain that if there had been a substantial loss of life from this fire and threats of large lawsuits, the developers and the city would most definitely rethink their goals of cheaper developments that support more affordable housing downtown. It's not worth it if it comes at the risk of actual lives.

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1 hour ago, Rufus said:

However, if the city were to require developers to go a safer route, meaning more structurally sound materials, that raises the price of the project, and the price of the units. It's unfortunate that that is the name of the game, but in order to provide "affordable" housing options, it's gonna be made cheaply. Downtown has already priced out a number of people, and that's with developments like this. Think of what developing concrete and steel buildings will do to rents in the area.

Furthermore, any city's first priority should be the safety of its residents and businesses, not providing affordable housing downtown. If you can't afford to live downtown, then there are various transit options available, but there is no option for a life that has been lost because of cheap construction that went up in flames.

Edited by RALNATIVE

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It could have been so much worse. 24-48 hours earlier there were wind gusts of >20 mph at ground level. Such a wind would surely have torched wooden-roofed structures all over downtown and SE Raleigh.

I believe the code should be tightened. Defenders of the status quo are already saying it wouldn't have happened to a completed building. As Scotchman points out, that ain't necessarily so. Even then, a stick-frame structure that is "saved" by sprinklers and the FD often turns out to be a waterlogged mess. 

All apartment buildings are fire risks. Two-story apartment buildings in low-density suburbs burn from time to time. We know that. Mid-rise buildings in dense packing have compound risk. They deserve better design and construction.  

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3 hours ago, Rufus said:

Look, I agree with you, and everybody for that matter, on the fact that cheap construction presents a terrible opportunity for disaster. However, if the city were to require developers to go a safer route, meaning more structurally sound materials, that raises the price of the project, and the price of the units. It's unfortunate that that is the name of the game, but in order to provide "affordable" housing options, it's gonna be made cheaply. Downtown has already priced out a number of people, and that's with developments like this. Think of what developing concrete and steel buildings will do to rents in the area.

That being said, I am intrigued to see what's going to happen to the site, Link and Quorum too. How is this going to affect the development in that area, which was pretty booming. The spaces between Glenwood South and Fayetteville St were seeing substantial amounts of interest and development. I wonder if this cools things down for a bit.

If you eliminated the REIT profit component of the economics all of a sudden either the rent price could go down or the rent could stay the same and absorb a higher construction cost. These damn out of State developers looking for "opportunities" need to go away and let locals handle it. Part of the reason land prices have gone up is *because of these types of projects. If development were cornered on having to produce smaller, safer buildings with varying rent points, the land prices would't escalate so damn high (queue meme). Edgewater NJ's fire is proof that even with sprinkler systems up and running, whole megablock projects made of wood can and will be completely consumed. The code changes in 2006 were a straight giveaway to developers who place profit first and all other considerations are secondary. 

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3 hours ago, RALNATIVE said:

Furthermore, any city's first priority should be the safety of its residents and businesses, not providing affordable housing downtown. If you can't afford to live downtown, then there are various transit options available, but there is no option for a life that has been lost because of cheap construction that went up in flames.

I think we are seeing this two ways: I agree that the priority is safety. That should always be the case. But I completely disagree in your assessment of affordability. I'm trying to keep this part concise so that it doesn't stray too far off topic, but, downtown should be affordable to live in for all. It shouldn't be, "if you can't afford to live here you just have to move to the burbs and take transit here." That not only adds the burden of moving, but also of having to afford a home and then a transit pass of some sort in order to get somewhere where you may work or want to interact. 

Saving that for a future conversation, and not this thread. 

I agree with you that this type of construction presents a risk. What I am trying to highlight is that in changing the code of what can be built will mean that building prices will go up, rents will be charged at a higher rate, and downtown will become more inaccessible for more people. I wish that weren't the case. I wish that every building were built to a standard that married safety, quality with affordability, accessibility. Unfortunately, look at San Francisco as an example of what happens: you have a city that has been ravaged by earthquakes and fires, and they have extremely strict building codes, and as such, developers had to follow suit, but their projects are being delivered at an unsustainable price point, thereby adding to an already extreme problem of affordability. 

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Too lazy to do all the searching but I'd be interested in seeing what the profit is on a Skyhouse development vs something like The Link or the Edison. Apparently land prices downtown are too cheep if they build so short. I can't imagine the lifespan on these wood developments being more than 50 years. I'd speculate the thinking is "we'll stickbuild now and in the future when land prices go up we'll redevelop."

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There was a question by "Orulz" of if the Edgewater NJ, Avalon apartments had sprinklers. In trying to find information on that, I ran across a report that another under construction mid rise apartment building, 235-unit, nearly-completed AvalonBay apartment, in nearby Maplewood, NJ burn down last month. Seems they did not change the code allowing wood framing. Yep same developer.

I found the following Information on the Edgewater fire. It was started by maintenance workers trying to fix a water leak (water leaks in only a year or so old building says something on quality). The workers where not licensed as plumbers and DID NOT CALL IN THE FIRE.  The buildings automated fire alarm/sprinkler system called it in around 15 min after the fire fist started.  So yes the building had a sprinklers, but as any professional in the field will tell you sprinklers are just designed to keep a fire in an open room from spreading until fire department arrives. If fire is in walls or fire is really hot,  as was in that case, they are not much good. 

Some other information. Five hundred emergency responders from 35 towns responded to the call as well is two NY Harbor fire boats to supply water to trucks. Even with all that resources it took 15 hours to put that fire out. 

I found a recording of Raleigh FD radio traffic during the fire Thursday and seems the Raleigh was stretched to limit on fighting this fire. Called in off duty fire fighters, trainees, activated training trucks, and asked surrounding towns to send units to cover empty stations in Raleigh. From the radio traffic, as well as lot's of damage to next door office building, there where multiple fires started at Quorum canter, Link apartments, and multiple roof top fires in surrounding blocks.

Seems the N&O as already dropped the story. It would be nice to see a detail report on what happen  and damage to surrounding buildings.

You would think that with all the fires around country like this, and not all in building under construction, the building codes would be changed.

I would never live in any wood building higher than second floor. 

 

 

Edited by Scotchman

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Seen numerous articles and coverage still going on.  Quorum residents got access to their units yesterday to assess the damage.  Just looking at the outside of the building it looks extremely bad.  Last I saw, the investigation is still ongoing, so no conclusions yet.

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All multi-family projects with more than 2 residential units are required to have sprinklers.  This now includes multiple duplexes on the same site.

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Never mind not wanting to live in one of these buildings. After seeing this, especially given the rather terrifying impacts to nearby buildings, I would not want to live next to one of these piles of kindling during construction either.

Such bans already exist in many large cities, but even more suburban locales have done this before, too. Last year, Sandy Springs, Georgia has banned frame buildings that are over 3 stories or 100,000 square feet. Maybe Raleigh should follow suit.

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For anyone that read the Charlotte article about such fires, the SBCA director is missing the point....he is blaming the people carelessly starting fires instead of focusing on what the hell happens once one gets going!. His quote infuriates the crap out of me by side stepping the very important topic in question. Since he wants to frame it that way (pun intended), you have to trust say, 400 other people to not be stupid (in a 250 unit building) or you might be jumping out of a window at 4 am with your dog in your arms. 

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It can't be ignored that most of these fires are during construction: that one that went viral in Houston a few years ago where the construction worker and firefighterbarely made it out alive, santana row in San Jose about a decade ago. The edgewater fire is a bit unusual.... But the risk during the construction phase alone is enough for me to say NO THANKS.

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1 hour ago, orulz said:

It can't be ignored that most of these fires are during construction: that one that went viral in Houston a few years ago where the construction worker and firefighterbarely made it out alive, santana row in San Jose about a decade ago. The edgewater fire is a bit unusual.... But the risk during the construction phase alone is enough for me to say NO THANKS.

Someone (from outside the area) speculated that the developers may be themselves the culprits and it could very well be arson. This thought had not previously crossed my mind, but now it makes me think. If these developers are having issues with such developments that aren't easily resolved, burning it down, collecting a big insurance check, and starting over could be more economically beneficial to them.

I have a hard time accepting the fact that anyone would willing jeopardize lives and property in order to profit, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Just listen to that first 9-1-1 call and the statement by the developer. All of this seems very bizarre and almost pre-planned.

I'm hoping that RPD does a very thorough investigation.

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