By Shavonne Potts
The cause of a fire that destroyed a Liberty Volunteer Fire Department building early Monday morning will never be known.
Insurance investigators and the county fire marshal concluded late Monday that the fire’s origin is officially undetermined. Damage to the structure made it impossible to pinpoint the cause, according to Frank Thomason, county emergency services director.
Parts of the fire station roof collapsed around one firefighter, who managed to escape with minor injuries.
Neighbors called to report the fire at the 9000 Bringle Ferry Road fire station around 4:30 a.m. They reported seeing flames coming from the roof.
Darrell Connor lives not far from the station and heard a siren going off sometime before 4 a.m.
“The siren hasn’t been working for years,” Connor said later Monday.
When the retired sheriff’s deputy realized the out-of-service siren was blaring, he called the county’s emergency communications center. Employees there told Connor they didn’t sound the siren.
Connor drove to the station and arrived to see a basketball-sized fireball shooting from the front of the building. He drove back home and told his girlfriend to call 911.
“When I came back about five minutes later, I saw flames shooting out of the roof,” Connor said.
The blaze was contained inside the fire station. A building a few yards away that housed a grocery store from 1948 to 1977 was not damaged. Connor said his family ran that store and rented the back part out as living space.
No one lives in the building now.
Firefighters were able to remove four of the five vehicles parked in the fire station bay, Thomason said.
Sometime after the flames were extinguished, the remaining tanker truck was pulled out using a backhoe. It didn’t appear to have suffered major damage to the interior or exterior.
Thomason explained that the major flammable-type products at the station were on the trucks, which were moved. The only other minor flammables still in building would’ve been in storage.
While inside the building battling the blaze, Thomason said, firefighter Nick Rogers heard the walls beginning to collapse around him and tried to get out. Rogers didn’t make it out before the brick walls, roof and debris caved in on him.
“He heard it coming and dove to a safe corner,” Thomason said.
Rogers was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for his injuries and released.
During cleanup after the fire, Thomason pointed out the corner pocket into which the firefighter had wedged himself. It could barely be seen beneath the debris.
There was no one in the building at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported except for those suffered by Rogers, who was responding to the fire.
The following agencies responded to the fire: Liberty, Rockwell Rural, Miller Ferry, Gold Hill, Union and Pooletown fire departments, Rowan County Rescue, Rowan EMS and the Rowan County Emergency Services Department.
The station, located on Bringle Ferry Road, is not the Liberty department’s primary station. The primary station is located at Stokes Ferry and Saint Matthew Church roads.
The station destroyed Monday, which is No. 60, was built in 1980.
Fire investigators were able determine that the fire started in the attic on the east side of the building. Thomason said investigators were able to confirm the spot where it started through video tape shot by neighbors.
“The biggest thing was once the roof collapsed, the damage bring everything down. It displaces everything and makes it extremely difficult ( to determine the cause)” said Thomason.
He said there was nothing in the attic prior to the fire.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shavonne Potts