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No code violations following Durham apartment fire

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Fire Inspection reports for Royal Oaks show no code violations Fire Inspection reports for Royal Oaks show no code violations

Despite multiple fires that have plagued a Durham apartment complex, an extensive WNCN review of fire inspection records show no code violations.

At least 40 people were displaced after the fire ripped through their building in the Royal Oaks complex.

A total of 24 units in the Royal Oaks Apartments were destroyed when the building burned as the result of fast moving flames which collapsed part of the structure

The fire was the latest in a series in buildings at the complex over the last few years said residents and Durham Fire Chief Dan Curia.

"It's very scary," resident Cheri Amos said. "It's hard to believe this is happening again."

WNCN wanted to know if there were problems with the buildings in the complex that may have contributed to the fires.

But, when WNCN examined five years of records for all the apartment buildings in the complex it found all 13 buildings at Royal Oaks passed their annual inspections every year during that time period.

The building that burned Monday was last inspected in August of 2012 and again records show the fire inspector found no violations.

In Durham, only common areas of apartments are inspected, which can include:

  • Exits and signs
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Emergency lighting
  • Fire doors

A team of eight firefighters inspects all apartment units in Durham once a year. They conduct over 8,000 inspections annually.

If violations are found, owners have 20 days in which to correct them.

Durham Fire Marshall Chief Edward Reid says in "90 percent of cases, violations are cleared within that time period."

In the case of Royal Oaks, the only problem we found was on May 22, 2008, when non-functioning emergency lighting units were found in Building number eight, which was under construction. Records indicated the violation was fixed the next day and the building was declared up to code by the inspector.

As to what caused Monday's fire, investigators tell WNCN it began in a first floor bedroom then broke through a rear window and traveled up the side of the building onto the roof.

Once the fire reached the roof, investigators say flames jumped a firewall and burned freely destroying the building.

Although they know where the fire began, investigators have been unable to determine how it started. They say they're hampered by the amount of destruction that occurred when the building collapsed during the height of the blaze.



Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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