CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Firefighters responding to an alarm Saturday night at townhomes burned by fire in Ballantyne Friday found nothing – the same day they announced the fire had started because of “improperly discarded smoking materials” left on the balcony of one of the burned units.
The three-alarm fire Friday night destroyed two units in the six-unit building and caused $1.5 million damage, the fire department said.
"Take a look – see what irresponsible smokers do? They don't just kill you with cancer, they kill you with fire," said Denise Lasalle, as she looked at her daughter’s burned home.
Her voice broke as she described her anger.
"My family's out of a home now because somebody decided to leave a lit cigarette hanging around," she said.
Lasalle had spent the day trying to salvage what little they could from the end unit of the building in the Kingsley subdivision, near the intersection of Johnston and Marvin Roads.
They found little.
Lasalle stood guard over two rugs sent by a niece serving in Afghanistan. They were soaking wet and one was covered in soot, but she hoped they could be saved.
She showed some family portraits firefighters took off the walls, and a collection of photos of when she and her sister, her daughter, and her grandchildren were all children.
“I think I was just very thankful that my kids came out alive,” said Lasalle, “and now I have something to look back on.”
Her grandson Jonathan, 14, was home with his sister, Isabella, 11, when he first noticed the fire. He wondered what the “shadows” were out his back door.
When he opened the door, he saw it.
“This huge wave of heat and smoke,” Jonathan described, “and the first thing you think is, ‘Where's my sister, is she okay?’”
Jonathan guided his sister out of the townhome and called 911, then watched with neighbors as the building burned.
Firefighters have declared his home – where he lived with his sister, mother, and aunt – unsafe, along with the unit next to it where the fire started.
Saturday night, the power had been turned back on in at least three units at the other end of the building, and some of their neighbors had returned home.