Justin Faulk could see the fire in the distance, see that it was massive, see that it was in downtown Raleigh.
And as he drove down Capital Boulevard on Thursday night, getting closer, Faulk was feeling some sense of dread.
“You see the flames and the first thing you think is, “Is that my building?’ ” Faulk said Saturday. “It was big. It was going up pretty much to the level of my building.”
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman lives in a condominium high-rise in the Glenwood South area. The Canes had played the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena on Thursday, and Faulk was returning home before going out for a postgame meal, having not seen or heard any breaking news reports.
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Faulk finally got close enough to see the fire was about a block or so away from his building. But his dog was at home. With the enormous size of the fire, there could be damage to the windows or outer walls.
Faulk said he parked a few blocks away as many police and firefighters were arriving, saying, “I could feel the heat on my face.”
The fire began in an unfinished, five-story apartment building at the corner of West Jones and Harrington streets named The Metropolitan, its wood frame creating an inferno. A large construction crane soon buckled and fell, fortunately missing firefighters, as hundreds of people were being evacuated from businesses and residences in the area.
“I took pictures and videos of the fire, almost at its full go,” Faulk said. “I watched the crane fall, landing on a garage.
“You’re just hoping that since nobody was living in that building, a half-built apartment complex, that (the fire) stays there. But it was so big. You could see the glass shattering at a corner building and knew everybody was getting evacuated there. You’re just hoping there are no injuries.”
One firefighter was cut by falling glass and others treated for smoke inhalation. But there were no serious injuries or deaths reported.
“For a fire of that size ... that’s good,” Faulk said.
Faulk said he was able to get in the building, check on his dog. He booked a room at a downtown hotel, just in case, but after the meal was able to go back to his building, which wasn’t damaged.
“Some of the people in my building went up to the rooftop, 17 floors up, and watched it there,” Faulk said. “We weren’t going to do that because there were embers flying around and could go anywhere.”