• 59°

Investigators: someone started Dunbar Center fire, intentions undetermined

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 Tuesday 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.

He said flames were visible from the building when East Spencer firefighters arrived, and fire personnel began attacking the fire from a defensive standpoint. Their main objective was to stop the fire from moving into the gym, which is on the right of the structure and furtherest away from Long Street.

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

McBride addressed the issue of water pressure and supply to the town, which the town board discussed at its Monday meeting. Public Works Director F.E. Isenhour told the board that water pressure would have been better if the town had a bigger water line, but it would not have saved the structure.

McBride echoed Isenhour’s sentiments during the Tuesday press conference, saying water pressure was an issue that night and initially firefighters didn’t have a sufficient amount water to fight the fire. He said once fire personnel realized they needed more water, they used the tanker task force to access water from area fire hydrants.

Fire crews had to shuttle water from two hydrants — one near Bojangles’ in Spencer and one on South Long Street.

“The Dunbar Center is a historical building within East Spencer, and they were thankful they were able to keep the fire from spreading any further,” McBride said.

The property is owned by Shady Grove Baptist Church. It is not clear at this time what plans the church has for the building, but Mayor Barbara Mallett said she’s interested in working to come up with ideas.

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. She also said she hopes the community can band together to help determine what can be done with the property.

She added that a small committee had met before the fire to see if the building could be used. Several ideas came up, including a charter school or a family resource center, Mallett said.

The building had been a target for vagrants, and people have stolen metal from the building in the past, McBride said.

Mallett and McBride thanked those who helped to battle the blaze.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

Comments

Elections

Requests for absentee ballots top 9,000 in Rowan

Local

Spencer approves supplemental USDA loan for Park Plaza project

Business

11 locals will make up Empire Redevelopment Task Force

Local

New finance director excited to prove himself, continue on path set by predecessor

Coronavirus

County health officials report four new COVID-19 deaths

Elections

Trump promotes health care ‘vision’ at stop in Charlotte but gaps remain

Crime

Blotter: Woman charged with stealing mom’s dog

Business

Rowan County hires Howden as new finance director

Local

Exhibit about Jim Crow-era travel on display at NC Transportation Museum

Elections

GOP elections board members resign over absentee settlement

Crime

Drive-by shooting injures 24-year-old Salisbury man

Crime

Highway Patrol: Vehicle fled after striking, killing pedestrian on Camp Road

Local

Locals to be inducted into NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame

Business

Fall fun, with a twist: Patterson Farm adjusts to guidelines, offers new version of traditional events

Nation/World

Sayers, Piccolo friendship lives on in ‘Brian’s Song’

Education

Partners in learning passes last year’s special needs fashion show fundraiser with all-virtual event

Education

Shoutouts

Elections

Former history teacher to use ‘working knowledge of the issues’ in state House race

Business

Chamber adds more than 50 new businesses during Total Resource Campaign

Education

School board candidates for Salisbury seat split on consolidation

Education

Virtually no internet: Rural NC families struggle with online access for school-age children

Education

Horizons Unlimited taking learning to students this semester

Nation/World

NTSB: Pilot’s actions likely caused Earnhardt Jr. plane crash

Nation/World

2 Louisville officers shot amid Breonna Taylor protests