GREENSBORO — The city’s fire department has reaffirmed in a new report what it concluded in May: “Unattended cooking” led to an apartment fire on Summit Avenue that left five children dead.
On Monday, fire officials released details of their full investigation and said that a pot left on a hot stove caught fire and burned an apartment unit at 3100 Summit Ave.
Since then, residents and city officials have said the apartment complex has harbored hundreds of housing violations. The city ultimately condemned the apartments and is forcing all the residents to move out.
But in the early-morning hours of May 19, the stove in Unit G and the electrical components around it were in working order when fire engulfed the apartment with five children and their father inside, according to the new report.
“There were no indicators that a malfunction of the stove was an ignition source,” the report states.
The report also states that the apartment’s tenants completed a work order on March 7 to replace “a bad range breaker” and that was the last known complaint.
The fire department reported that it found from interviews with family and residents in the complex, and through its own investigation of the scene, that a relative brought food over to the apartment the day before the fire and that the burner had been left on underneath the pot.
“Unattended cooking is the probable cause of the fire,” the report states.
When firefighters responded about 4 a.m., they rescued the five children inside — three boys and two girls, ages 18 months to 9 years old. They all died within the next 24 hours, unable to overcome their injuries.
The father, who works at a local factory, could not get them out. The mother was working the overnight shift at a chicken plant several counties away.
Most residents in the complex of 42 apartments are refugees.
The deaths of the children, whose parents are African, spawned an outcry in the community over bad conditions at the apartments, ranging from faulty wiring to leaky pipes to rodents.
Speaking through interpreters, tenants said at two community meetings that living conditions made them feel like “animals.”
On Aug. 13, city inspectors found hundreds of housing violations and ordered units condemned until repairs could be made.
Community agencies are now assisting the roughly 30 families in finding new homes.