CONCORD, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Concord community is grieving after three children died in a fire at a public housing complex. The fire happened Sunday morning around 1:00 a.m. at Chapman Homes on Lincoln Street Southwest. City officials say an 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy died at the scene. A 16-year-old girl was taken to the hospital, where she later died. Cabarrus County Schools says the three children were students in their district.
As the community mourns the loss of the kids, many residents are taking a closer look at their smoke alarms. Concord Fire says the smoke detectors in the home where the fire happened were tested in January and were operational at the time.
Christiano Gray lives in the area. He tells Queen City News he saw the smoke and went inside the home, hoping to check for people.
“No signs of smoke detectors, no fire alarms, no nothing,” Gray said. “I stepped foot in the front and there are people who can vouch for me on that.”
Fire spurs community action, reaction
Jonnie Grady tested his smoke detector Monday and realized none of the three alarms were functional. He has lived at Chapman Homes for eight years.
“We used to have inspections, they used to come check the stove and the smoke detectors,” Grady said. “When that COVID stuff was going on they quit checking everything.”
Chapman Homes were built during the Eisenhower administration as affordable, low-income housing. A city spokeswoman tells Queen City News residents are responsible for changing the smoke detector batteries as outlined in their leasing agreement. She says maintenance teams are required to check the smoke alarms when there is any type of work order in a home, and she says smoke alarms are inspected annually.
“I didn’t look at it as a big deal until something like this happens and you realize how lifesaving that could be or how many people could still be here right now if there was one little sound [that] would’ve went off,” Christiano Gray said. “You never know how deep a person could be asleep or what they doing and that alarm could really save some lives now I’m seeing the seriousness of it.”
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires public housing inspections every one to three years, but some say that’s not enough.
“We just have to tend to the less fortunate and fix their concerns like we would meet others’ concerns,” Rev. Bryan Cunningham from Cottonville AME said.
Residents call for government action
As families grieve the loss of three children in the neighborhood, they hope the city and federal government will hear their concerns.
“To me, they need to upgrade these apartments,” Jonnie Grady said.
Fire officials are still working to learn what caused this tragic fire. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends changing smoke alarm batteries every six months and replacing smoke alarms every 10 years. City Officials are asking anyone living in City Housing to report broken smoke detectors to maintenance immediately.
The City is partnered with the American Red Cross to provide relocation assistance, grief counseling, and additional death services to the families. Atrium Health Cabarrus also offered crisis counseling to the parents. The City is also currently working with the Red Cross to provide grief counseling to all of the public housing residents. Grace Lutheran Church in Concord (58 Chestnut Dr. SW) is going to serve as the community-wide contact for donations. Individuals and organizations wishing to donate services or items to aid the families can contact Rev. Donald Anthony at 704-701-7167.