FAIRMONT — The investigation into the cause of the fire that gutted a business structure on North Walnut Street here was just beginning late this evening, the police chief said.
State Bureau of Investigation agents were on the scene interviewing witnesses, Chief Jon Edwards said about 10 p.m. The fire was beginning to cool down enough so fire investigators could get close enough to look at what was left of the Dollar General, Meat Store and True Value Hardware that occupied the building.
And firefighters remained on the scene.
“They’re still spraying water on it,” Edwards said.
No one was injured in fire, he said. And the police chief said there was no truth to rumors that Meadow Woods Apartments, at 401 Meadow Wood Circle, was evacuated because of fears chemicals burning in the hardware store would produce toxic fumes.
“They might have got scared and evacuated themselves,” Edwards said. “But we didn’t evacuate them. We wouldn’t do that to them.”
Firefighters from as far away as Bladenboro responded to the fire that raged through the structure, Edwards said.
“The walls are still standing,” Edwards said.
The police chief got the fire call about 5:30 p.m.
“They’re still putting water on the fire, trying to extinguish it,” Edwards said about 8:15 p.m.
A Robeson County fire investigator also was at the scene, he said. Procedure dictated that the SBI be told about the fire because it involved businesses.
“I got more firetrucks than people down here,” Edwards said with a chuckle.
Firefighters from the Fairmont, Smyrna, Whitehouse, Lumberton, Rowland and Bladenboro fire departments came to battle the blaze. And that’s just the ones Edwards could see while at his truck speaking on his cell phone.
“Sadly, Fairmont has lost three excellent and thriving businesses to a fire which erupted on Friday afternoon at their location on North Walnut Street,” town Commissioner Charles Kemp said.
The fire’s cause was unknown as of this evening, he said.
“We are very grateful to all the fire, rescue, law enforcement, and other first-responding units which arrived in a timely manner and offered very dedicated and professional service,” Kemp said. “We are saddened by the losses both physical and economic to these three upstanding and excellent businesses and hope they will look beyond this disaster to make a comeback at some future date.
Allyssia Chavis, 19, witnessed the blaze from Fresh Foods on Walnut Street, where she is the front manager.
Chavis said between 4:30 and 5 p.m. her manager said he could smell smoke.
“When I went to sit on the loading dock I could see lots of smoke and lots of fire,” she said.