Neighbors react after fire destroys Greenville condominium

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) Neighbors have mixed reactions as to whether policies need to change after a fire displaced 15 residents in a Greenville condominium complex.

Greenville Fire Marshal Bryant Beddard says the fire was started by misuse of smoking materials like cigarettes. The National Fire Protection Association says nationwide cigarettes cause about five percent of house fires, but they can be one of the most deadly causes.

Christopher Lee lives in a unit adjacent to the complex that caught fire Friday and he says he's relieved his home was spared by the blaze.

"Maybe another 20, 30 minutes of it burning and 20 more feet of flames and it could have ignited this building," said Lee.

The fire did warp siding on the outer walls of his neighbor Mohammed Dorgham's unit.

"First thing I did was check inside, nothing out of the ordinary. No smells, no burns," said Dorgham.

Beddard says it's important to extinguish items like cigarettes and matches in a metal container and to make sure they're damp before leaving them unattended.

Lee says a more consistent smoking policy at his complex could help as well. Each unit is privately owned with some being leased by owners. He says that means each unit has it's own policy on smoking.

"Maybe [having] like designated areas to put cigarettes out at," said Lee.

"It's just more of negligence," says Dorgham who doesn't think the fire calls for a change in policy, "You can't stop people from doing things like that."

There's also another factor that cities like Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill have addressed after similar fires. Several cities in the Triangle have outlawed using pine straw near apartments and condominiums to prevent the spread of fires.

"If cigarettes or matches or something got thrown down, I'm sure it ignited quickly. It might give me some peace of mind," said Lee.

Dorgham doesn't see a need to remove the pine straw bedding around the complexes and Beddard says the city hasn't considered an ordinance on the issue.