Earlier this month, Greenville Fire/Rescue (GFR) responded to an apartment unit’s fire at The District at Tar River’s complex, which left 26 residents displaced and searching for a new place in Greenville to call home.
GFR responded to the call around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, and reported there to be smoke and flames present on the scene, according to a press release from GFR Public Information Officer (PIO), Rebekah Thurston. GFR was able to contain the fire at the singular building.
The fire left 11 units of the District at Tar River’s F building with “sustained major damage.” The cause of the fire was determined to be “accidental,” and began in the kitchen due to “unattended cooking,” according to the press release.
As a result, one of the 26 residents displaced, Elizabeth Zocher, a senior nursing major, was affected. Zocher signed her lease with The District at Tar River apartments in January 2018.
Zocher said, when the fire began, she was sitting in her apartment with her husband, Brady, watching television when she heard the commotion outside and decided to check her security cameras which are positioned outside her unit.
“I checked on my app, the security cameras, and there was fire engines outside and we didn’t really smell smoke, our fire alarms weren’t going off, and so we went outside,” Zocher said. “When we went outside there were people across the street saying our ‘building is on fire’.”
Zocher’s husband was able to go back inside and retrieve their dog, cat and binder with their medical and government records. The firefighters would not permit her husband to go back in a second time to retrieve any additional belongings.
“It (the fire) started in (unit) F3 and we are F8, so it was five down and the building itself didn’t have fire breaks in it, it was built in the 60s, I believe, and so the attics are all connected, it’s one big attic,” Zocher said. “We originally thought that our apartment was going to be fine. We could see in our windows and there was no smoke, but the fire caught the insulation in the attic.”
According to Zocher, when the fire caught the insulation in the attic it traveled all the way across the whole building.
Zocher said the roof of her unit collapsed due to the fire, and they lost “everything” in the apartment. She is in the process of recovering wedding photos and videos from a hard drive recovered by a fireman after the fire was contained.
“(The next day) The District’s management had a new address for us,” Zocher said. “We aren’t able to move in yet because it’s being renovated, but they had enough units for all the displaced residents on the other side of the apartment complex.”
Displaced residents were given the option of continuing their lease with The District apartments or opting to get out of their lease with “no penalties,” according to Zocher.
Following the accident, one of Zocher’s friends from her hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, started a GoFundMe to raise money so the couple can buyback what their renter’s insurance does not cover.
“We weren’t insured as high as we needed to be, and that is something I had spoken to her (her friend) about the night of the fire, not really reaching for anything like that, but she started it the next day just to see if we could pull people together who wanted to donate to us to help us out,” Zocher said.
Zocher said the money raised by the GoFundMe is being put toward buying new clothes, beds, pet food and additional essentials they lost in the fire. She said every little bit helps, in reference to meeting the site’s goal amount.
The Zocher’s GoFundMe has not yet met its goal of $3,500, but has so far reached $1,135 donations raised by 28 people in 11 days, according to the webpage. Donations can be made to the family online here.
In response to a call from The East Carolinian, The District at Tar River apartment management said they would not be taking interviews about the fire at this time.