WILMINGTON -- Investigators say Monday's fire at a Wilmington apartment complex could have been prevented. Investigators say the fire started when someone threw a lit cigarette into the mulch near a building at Abbott's Run. But officials say that kind of combustible material shouldn't have been near the building in the first place. Wilmington Fire Chief Frank Blackley wants to make sure another fire like Monday's doesn't happen again. Chief Blackley said, "We feel like it could have been prevented. They could have used some type of non-combustible type of landscaping such as rock or stone, which would have prevented the fire from spreading to the vinyl and then up the building." Blackley says he plans to propose a land ordinance at an upcoming city council meeting that would require apartment complexes to use non-combustible materials like gravel for landscaping -- instead of mulch, pine straw or wood chips. For fire victim Thomas Rose the proposal comes too late. "You don't think it could happen to you, but it could pretty much happen to anyone," he said. Rose's apartment didn't suffer too much damage but is still deemed unlivable. "It's just pretty finding a new place to live and starting your life all over again after that," Rose said. Rose says the most frustrating thing about the situation is that he is displaced because of someone else's negligence. "I'm pretty pissed about that actually. Irresponsible, a cigarette -- you don't think something that tiny could cause something as big as this." Right now it's not against the law for apartment complexes to have landscaping materials like mulch, pine straw or wood chips near buildings. Chief Blackley says non-combustible materials would cost twice as much, but would not have to be replaced as often and are safer.
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