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Officials: Chemical vapors ignited, caused fatal fire at S&S Graham Archery

By Nathan Hardin
nhardin@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE — Chemical vapors ignited by a water heater pilot light caused an explosion and fire that claimed the life of a business owner Friday night, emergency officials said today.
Sonya Graham, co-owner of S&S Graham Archery on South Main Street, died in the fire.
Her twin sister and business partner Sionna Graham escaped from the building with three others.
According to Frank Thomason, Rowan County chief of emergency services, employees at the business were using acetone in a taxidermy process when vapors were ignited by the pilot light of a natural gas water heater about 9:30 p.m. Friday.
“The ignition of the vapors caused an explosion inside the building and subsequent fire,” Thomason said in an email.
Fire investigators said five people, including the two sisters, were inside the business at the time of the explosion.
Thomason said Sonya was cut off by the fire and unable to escape the building.
She took shelter in an adjacent bathroom.
“The ensuing fire caused significant damage to the area of the building where the explosion and fire occurred and subsequently the loss of life of Ms. Graham,” Thomason wrote.
The two sisters had been involved in the business for 25 years.
“The entire public safety community offers its sincere condolences and our thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family during this time of tragic loss,” Thomason said.

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