Investigator: Dunbar Center fire set, but not clear why

Published 12:13 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015

EAST SPENCER — Investigators say someone started the fire that destroyed the Dunbar Center last week, but they don’t know why.

A fire destroyed the former school on Dec. 30, and fire personnel have continued to put out hot spots inside the 56-year-old building. The building was rebuilt in 1958 and operated as Dunbar High School. The original school burned in 1938.

Rowan County Fire Investigator Deborah Horne said during a press conference this morning that investigators know the fire started on the north side of the building, and it was started by someone inside the building.

“At this point in the investigation, the intent of the fire cannot be proven. There is no way to determine if the fire was started intentionally to devastate the building or if someone started a fire to keep warm and it escalated beyond their control,” Horne said.

A law enforcement investigation is ongoing.

The East Spencer Fire Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Davidson County Fire Marshal’s Office responded. The SBI was at the scene for much of day after the fire. Eighteen fire agencies responded with about 75 firefighters, said East Spencer Fire Chief Shawn McBride.

East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett called the building an anchor for the town and said she hopes something can be done with what can be salvaged from the structure.

Mallett and McBride thanked those who assisted in battling the blaze.

McBride said the building was not secure and it had been vandalized in the past.

Firefighters used 250,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire.

McBride addressed the water pressure and supply to the town. The town board discussed the fire at its Monday meeting, and public works director F.E. Isenhour spoke about the water supply during the fire.

Isenhour told the board the pressure would’ve been somewhat better if the town had a bigger water line, although it would not have helped save the structure.

See more in Wednesday’s Post.