Late-night fire destroys downtown businesses

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A fire that broke out shortly before midnight Thursday destroyed a historic downtown Mount Olive building and the three businesses it housed.

Fire Chief Greg Wiggins said the cause of the fire has not been determined. No foul play is suspected.

Damage to the two-story 1920 Kraft Building was estimated at $250,000.

The building is located in the 100 block of West James Street.

Ground floor businesses destroyed were Shear Magic Grooming, The Purple Turtle and an emergency supplies operation.

Nearby adjoining buildings, the old Center Street Theatre and the former post office building that houses law offices, were not damaged.

The fire broke out at 11:45 p.m., and firemen were on the scene on into Friday morning.

In addtition to the Mount Olive Fire Department, other departments responding included Dudley, Smith Chapel, and Calypso and Oakwood departments from neighboring Duplin County.

Two aerial ladder trucks were at the scene and Chief Wiggins said at one point 3,000 gallons of water per minute were being pumped onto the fire.

There were no animals inside the grooming business.

The nearly100-year-old structure is owned by Hose and Belinda Parent of Mount Olive.

There were no injuries, although one fireman did suffer a minor cut on his finger.

Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown said the loss of three businesses in the downtown distric and the destruction of the building is a big economic setback for the downtown area.

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