Apparent arson at Research Station costs thousands
SALISBURY — Warped metal coated farm vehicles Friday morning as investigators searched for clues in an apparent arson at the Piedmont Research Station on Sherrills Ford Road.
Authorities said intruders set the fire before 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. No livestock or research was destroyed in the fire.
But the damage is still being assessed.
“It’s a terrible loss,” said Kelly Snider, crops manager at the station.
The loads of twisted aluminum that littered the area had once been the roof of a large shed, which covered hay used for feed at the facility and housed thousands of dollars in now-ruined equipment.
One Rowan County deputy on the scene said other buildings had been broken into. It was found during the fire investigation.
Assistant Rowan County Fire Marshal Deborah Horne said it’s unclear how many suspects were involved in the fire, but it was intentional.
“We just don’t believe that this is accidental,” Horne said. “We believe they had intent.”
Nearly 12 hours after the fire began, smoke still billowed from mounds of hay strewn about the site Friday morning.
Joe Hampton, superintendent of the Piedmont Research Station, said equipment worth thousands of dollars was destroyed, including a tractor and a feed distribution vehicle.
The building primarily housed hay, Hampton said, which was used as feed at the nearby dairy facility. The hay is used to feed animals through the winter months.
Emergency crews were notified by a neighbor who thought the fire was in the woods and called authorities at 11:30 p.m.
A golf cart used at the poultry unit was found partially melted beside the burning structure.
But Hampton said he’s glad no animals or research were destroyed in the fire.
“No livestock in there, fortunately,”?he said.
Some vandalism was also found around the facility and one burglarized building had partially cut wires inside.
Authorities said they are continuing to investigate the incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.