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No cause determined yet in Dunbar Center fire

No official cause has been determined in the overnight fire at the historic Dunbar Center in East Spencer, but Rowan County fire officials say it could’ve been set intentionally.

A fire completely destroyed the building, which at one point housed an all-black school. The fire began sometime before 8 p.m., and fire crews continued to douse the building with water well after midnight.

Wednesday morning, fire Fire Investigator Deborah Horne said authorities were just starting their investigation. Horne said fire crews were continuing to put out hot spots inside the building, which was built in 1958 and operated as Dunbar High School.

Horne, who is with the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office, said they called in other agencies to assist because the fire was more than any single department could handle. The East Spencer Fire Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Davie County Fire Marshal’s Office. The SBI has also been at the scene for much of the day.

Horne said there is a chance the fire was intentionally set and right now fire officials are looking at every avenue to determine the cause.

She said fire officials have to measure the building and go through all of its contents to aid them in determining what happened. She said fire officials had not found anything inside as of Wednesday morning.

Horne said they had not been able to get inside to determine if there were accelerants used.

“This is heartbreaking for many people in this area. We’ve heard memories from people who went there. It’s a staple in the community,” Horne said.

The fire was contained to the school. Fire crews had to shuttle water from two hydrants — one near Bojangles’ and South Long Street. Horne said firefighters used 250,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire.

The initial fire call came in as a first alarm with five stations responding and then was upgraded to a five-alarm fire when fire officials used their tanker task force to access water from area hydrants.

East Spencer native Essie Mae Foxx said she was devastated to hear the news of the fire. Her children heard about the fire Tuesday night and asked her if she wanted to drive to the site to watch with other onlookers.

“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to see it burning down, all of our dreams and hopes up in smoke,” Foxx said.

Foxx said she just cried at the thought of so much history going up in flames.

No one was injured or hurt during the fire response, town and fire officials said.

See more in Thursday’s Post.

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