Keith Woods took Monday off work and rented a moving truck to get his belongings out of the fire-damaged apartment he shared with his girlfriend in East Raleigh.
Woods said he was the last resident to move out of the Pines of Ashton apartment building that sustained major damage March 30 in a fire that police say was intentionally set. The blaze displaced 41 residents and destroyed six units in a 12-unit building on Roselle Court near WakeMed Health & Hospitals.
“I think most of the people who lived in the building left the big stuff,” said Woods, who served in the U.S. Army for more than six years. “They took what was sentimental and left.”
The fire happened two weeks after a huge blaze displaced more than 200 people who live near The Metropolitan, an under-construction apartment building on Jones Street downtown.
The fire at Pines of Ashton was smaller, but many residents who were displaced need just as much help or more help than those affected by the downtown fire, said Gehrig Haberstock, a disaster relief specialist with the Red Cross in Raleigh.
“I don’t think anyone had a place to go for the night,” he said of the Pines of Ashton residents. “They didn’t have friends or relatives in the area.”
The fire that destroyed The Metropolitan damaged The Quorum, which has office space and luxury condominiums, and Link Apartments Glenwood South, where units can cost up to $2,000 a month. The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street in case displaced residents needed a place to sleep for the night.
“Out of the 200-plus people who were evacuated, every one of those were able to find a place to go, except for one person,” said Brittany Jennings, a Red Cross spokeswoman. “He was incredibly grateful to have the Red Cross there.”
Haberstock said the Red Cross is helping 30 people, including seven families, who were affected by the Pines of Ashton fire.
“We are definitely doing more robust care to meet the needs of our clients at Pines of Ashton,” Haberstock said, adding that the Red Cross is working to connect families with other agencies and charities, including the Salvation Army.
It could take months for investigators to determine what caused the downtown fire, but Raleigh police said they quickly realized the fire at Pines of Ashton was the result of arson.
Eight minutes after the fire was reported, police charged Anthony Antoine Ridley, 34, with felony first-degree arson, according to arrest warrants. Ridley lived at the apartment building, and the incident is being handled as a domestic violence case.
When the fire began, a man, woman and two children were in the apartment.
Crews arrived Monday to start clearing debris from the fire. They set up a chain-link fence around the damaged building.
Pines of Ashton is owned by GSC, a private company that owns apartment complexes throughout the Triangle and in Georgia, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. Officials with the company could not be reached for comment.
Woods described the apartment building as “family-oriented” and said tenants are required to have renter’s insurance. Some tenants displaced by the fire have moved into other units, he said.
“The complex has been really good at accommodating people into other apartments,” Woods said. “They moved one guy into an adjoining building.”
Haberstock said the Red Cross is helping residents “develop a recovery plan.”
“We want to empower our clients to get back to normalcy again,” he said. “We want to get them back to where they were before the fire.”