22 families displaced in southwest Charlotte apartment fire

22 families displaced in southwest Charlotte apartment fire


by DIANA RUGG / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @DianaRuggwcnc


Posted on February 24, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 25 at 2:05 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A fire Sunday morning at a southwest Charlotte apartment complex sent two firefighters to the hospital and left nearly two dozen people without a place to stay Sunday night.

Charlotte firefighters said they received "multiple calls" to 911 around 8 a.m. Sunday that a building at Tyvola Centre apartments, near the intersection of Tyvola Road and South Tryon, was on fire. 

Cell phone video shot by neighbors shows flames and a plume of thick, dark smoke rising from the attic of the three-story building. 

(Click here for RAW video of the fire.)

"I heard people screaming and I went up off my balcony and it was really scary," said Chelsea Gravelle, one of many residents who watched the flames burn the building across the parking lot from her for nearly an hour.

She said people on one end of the building that wasn't on fire ran out with armfuls of belongings.  Those at the end that was burning came out with nothing but their clothes on their backs.

"It was just really scary to hear all the screaming and crying and people getting their stuff to run out," she said.

She and others say the flames appeared to start in the attic and spread down to the apartments below.  The flames trapped some residents.

"We realized there was the need for an active rescue," said Deputy Fire Chief Rob Kinniburgh.  "We still had people in their apartments that couldn't escape."

Everyone was rescued as more than 70 firefighters battled the blaze, and there were no reported injuries among residents. Two firefighters received minor injuries -- one when a ceiling collapsed -- but both were treated and released from the hospital Sunday afternoon.

Investigators hadn't named a source of the fire or a cause by Sunday evening.

Late Sunday, the top two apartments in the back of the building were burned almost completely.  The remaining two third-story apartments showed some fire damage.

The eight apartments below them had extensive water damage, said a worker at a restoration company, and will probably have to be gutted and rebuilt.  A number of residents said the apartments had sprinklers.

Because the electricity is turned off to the entire building, 22 families had to find another place to stay Sunday night.  A firewall kept flames from spreading to half of the building, said a contractor, and those families can return once power is turned back on.

A dozen other families will need to find a new place to live.  The apartment complex is paying for hotels for the families until they can find new accommodations, and the Red Cross is helping provide necessities.

Cleanup crews cleared debris Sunday evening, as residents gathered what they could carry from their apartments. 

Paul Haughwout from Belfor Property Restoration said the building would take four to five months to rebuild.

"The top floor is completely totaled," said Haughwout.  "You got floor joists that have been affected so it will be a complete gut for all these units right here."

But it can be rebuilt, said Haughwout -- "from the top down as opposed to the bottom up."