Fire displaces 54 people from Laurel apartment building, once a historic hotel

Firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire at 118 North Central St. the evening of Jan. 27, 2022.
·2 min read

A historic hotel turned apartment building was lost in a three-alarm fire Thursday night, displacing 54 people in Laurel.

Firefighters responded to 118 North Central Ave. at 6:36 p.m. to find the building ablaze. Draft sites were established when the town water system couldn't keep up with suppression efforts, according to the Laurel Fire Department.

Ultimately, firefighters from Laurel, Blades, Sharptown, Seaford, Delmar and Greenwood battled the fire. Some were on scene for 10 hours, the Laurel Fire Department said.

Eleven of 16 apartments were occupied when the fire broke out, the department said. Everyone was able to get out safely, but the building was a total loss. Damage to the building was estimated at $1 million.

"​An outpouring of care from the citizens of Laurel assisted the fire department with care and shelter of those who were displaced," the Laurel Fire Department said in a news release.

The Laurel School District opened on a two-hour delay Friday, saying "so many staff and bus drivers were volunteering through the night."

The number of people displaced was increased from 35 to 54 by mid-morning Friday, accoriding to the fire marshal's office.

Firefighters had long feared a fire at the Rigbie Apartments, according to the news release, due to the structure's balloon construction.

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Balloon construction was common in the 19th and early 20th century. The frame of balloon construction buildings lack fire stops between floors, allowing fire to quickly spread up the walls.

The building originally served as the Rigbie Hotel, once a centerpiece of the community with a banquet area, bar and lodging. But, according to the fire department, the building had deteriorated in recent years.

The Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating the origin and cause.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Laurel apartment fire displaces 54. former Rigbie Hotel

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