Windsor Green community to go smoke free

Residents moving in to the re-built buildings in the Windsor Green community almost 10 months after the fire.

The Windsor Green community in Carolina Forest, which suffered a devastating fire in March of 2013, has decided to become a smoke-free community, citing fire-safety and health concerns for residents.

"We had issued a survey to the owners getting a pulse of the community, and the survey came back 85 percent in favor of this type of policy. So that was our ammunition to go ahead with this and implement the policy. We hope it will reduce fire hazards improve conditions for everyone and reduce house keeping and maintenance problems," said John Gurley, president of Windsor Green community.

Gurley says beginning July 1st the community will be smoke-free except in designated smoking areas in front of the clubhouse, near the pool and the two grill areas. Smoking will still be allowed inside owner units and back porches.

The Windsor Green Community, which lost 109 condos in the massive fire last year, isn't taking any chances when it comes to fire safety now.

Gurley owned one of the units destroyed. His son was a resident who lost everything in the fire.

"(He) was homeless like everybody else with virtually nothing, only the clothes on his back," said Gurley. "I had a unique position of being the president and being able to empathize with people over here who lost their units and dogs and all their belongings."

Nine months after the devastation, homes were rebuilt. But, the scars are still there for residents.

Fire officials can't say exactly what caused the fire, but they know it was "human caused."

Windsor Green's community president says he and others often wonder if a discarded cigarette was to blame.

"My guess it, and this is only a guess, is that it started down by the railroad tracks where people walk their dogs and smoke. And probably started from a cigarette butt. Again, that's only speculation but its a strong possibility," said Gurley.

Along with the smoking policy, the new buildings have sprinklers and the community is working to become fire wise certified, which is a National Fire Protection Association program. Community officials are trying to continually upgrade the area.

"Hopefully we will get strong voluntary compliance because of, to me, the obvious reason for doing this, but if there are violations they'll fall under our normal fine procedure," said Gurley.

In March of 2013 officials say a brushfire that spread to the apartment complex caused almost $12 million in damages to the complex and destroyed a total of 26 buildings.