Firefighters battle a five-alarm fire burning an apartment building and surrounding structures in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Thursday night, March 16, 2017. Fire was consuming an apartment building under construction. The cause of the fire is under investigation. (Chris Seward/The News & Observer via AP)

'Lot of sparks falling down' as fire engulfs apartments

March 17, 2017 - 8:43 am

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Firefighters have extinguished a massive late-night fire that engulfed an apartment building under construction in North Carolina's capital city, sending sparks and ash into the dark sky, authorities said Friday.

About 10 other buildings were damaged by the fire, five of them severely, area news outlets reported.

One firefighter was hurt by falling glass, but no other injuries were reported.

The fire began shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday in the six-story building in downtown Raleigh, a city in the eastern part of the state. The fire was under control about three hours later, although firefighters were still dealing with hot spots late Friday morning.

Pedro Tapiak told the News and Observer of Raleigh that spreading flames caused a construction crane at the complex to collapse.

Residents of nearby apartments were jolted awake by noise and light from the flames.

"It's incredible the amount of buildings that are burning over there," Jeff Woodward told WRAL-TV.

"There's cars exploding up in the parking deck that are burning. I've never seen anything like this before," Woodward said.

About 130 firefighters worked to contain the flames.

About 250 customers in nearby buildings lost power during the fire near a restaurant district.

"You don't expect to walk outside and see a towering inferno," Scott Shook, president of the North Carolina Community Colleges Board, who was eating dinner at one of the restaurants, told The News & Observer.

Investigators were not able to get into the wreckage early Friday to determine the cause of the fire. Several streets remained closed.

Fire officials said six floors of a nearby apartment complex were damaged, as were 17 floors of another nearby building.

The League of Municipalities building sustained damage to five floors.

"I saw a huge explosion from a car up there, a lot of sparks falling down," Ian Martin told the station. "I even saw some ashes on the roads, like it's been raining ash."

The building that burned was supposed to have about 240 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments.

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