Greenville Firefighters investigating cause of condo fire
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, August 10, 2019
The American Red Cross aided 13 individuals who were left homeless by a fire that fire destroyed and damaged units at Spring Forest Condominiums on Spring Forest Road on Friday.
Greenville Fire-Rescue is investigating the cause of the fire, public information officer Rebekah Thurston said. As of 9:30 p.m. Friday, the department was finalizing information on the total number of units damaged or destroyed and the number of individuals displaced.
At least one civilian was transported from the scene with non-life threatening injuries Thurston said. Several pets died.
Combating the fire was complicated because flames got into gas lines that served the units, Thurston said.
It appears the fire started outside the building and spread to nearby gas meters, said Steve Hawley, Greenville Utilities Commission public information officer.
Greenville Fire-Rescue was dispatched to 535 Spring Forest Road at 3:30 p.m. Firefighters from Red Oak, Winterville Community and Staton House departments also were called.
“It’s extraordinarily difficult for us when it’s this warm (Friday’s temperatures reached the mid-90s) and there’s a gas fire that doesn’t stop,” Thurston said. A rehab space was set up so firefighters could rotate off the fire line to cool down and drink fluids, she said.
Workers with GUC's gas division cut off service to the area to stop the gas from feeding the fire, Hawley said. They then worked to cut off the service to the building so gas could be restored to the unaffected areas.
The American Red Cross also was on the scene, aiding residents who were displaced. Most were at work and only learned of the fire as they were driving up to the complex.
Michael Brown, a disaster service volunteer, said the Northeastern North Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross provided displaced residents with temporary housing. If it was needed, disaster action team volunteers also could offer assistance in replacing some clothing and food, he said.
“We also can provide people with support with our disaster mental health counselors,” Brown said. The organization will follow up with residents next week to help them develop a long-term recovery plan.
Michelle Williams has lived at Spring Forests Condominiums for five years. She was sitting at her table taking care of her cat Gracie, a 12-year-old Norwegian Forest who had undergone cancer treatment at Wilmington clinic on Thursday.
“I heard some popping and crackling and I got up. Then I heard some banging at the door and they said, "Get out, it’s a fire,'” Williams said.
She ran to her spare bedroom where her cats Apple, a Maine coon, and Franklin, a black tabby, were hiding. Williams said when she couldn’t find Apple and Franklin so she went to her bedroom where Gracie fled but couldn’t find her.
Williams said closed the door and made another attempt to get the other cats and some of her belongings.
“I went back to collect my things but I couldn’t get through because the flames had broken through the window,” she said.
Williams also had two lovebirds in a cage. A friend who was visiting got the cage and the parrots outside of the condo.
Another friend who also lived in the complex took the birds to her home while Williams stayed and watched the firefighters.
“I don’t know if my cats are OK or not,” she said. “I told them I had three cats inside but no one has said anything.”
Early last month, a Greenville woman was arrested and charged with setting a fire that damaged multiple units at another Spring Forest Road development.
According to a report in The Daily Reflector, the woman allegedly twice set fire to her former townhouse, located at 900 Spring Forest Road, after she was ordered to leave the property following an eviction notice.
The initial fire was set in a trash can on June 27 and was quickly extinguished, according to Greenville Fire-Rescue officials. A second fire took place on June 28 while police were investigating the first fire.
The American Red Cross reported a family of three was displaced by the fire.