Investigators continue to determine the cause of a late-morning fire that destroyed one business and damaged four others in downtown Mount Olive last Wednesday.
A little after 11 a.m., Sylvie Thrift Store owner Sylvie Brognon heard a popping sound come from the rear area of the building. She saw smoke, vacated the premises and immediately called 911.
Flames engulfed the building’s interior and clouds of thick black smoke billowed from the back of the shop before the Mount Olive Fire Department arrived.
MOFD Chief Greg Wiggins requested assistance from volunteer fire units in Wayne and Duplin counties. The additional manpower from those nine departments allowed for rest and rotation periods as temperatures began to climb.
Crews worked throughout the lunch-time hour to get the blaze under control and spent the remainder of the afternoon dousing potential hot spots that Wiggins feared might re-kindle overnight.
Wiggins said the building’s roof had several layers.
“It was a matter of cutting, pulling and prying to get to the fire,” he said.
Brognon suffered a total loss.
“It was the contents (of the store) and nature of those contents, so much heat that some of the polyester clothes just melted and dropped to the floor which made it like walking on burning rubber,” Wiggins said.
Sir Robert’s Antiques & Estate Sales, Carroll Turner’s law office and Auction Liquidators suffered extensive smoke damage. God’s Grace Convenience Store encountered smoke and water damage.
“Susan [James] had a lifetime collection of antiques and is just devastated,” Wiggins said. “She is going to try and save some of it.”
George Bell owns the building.
Wiggins said the nearly century-old structure held up well compared to modern-day buildings that would have disintegrated into a burn pile because of how they’re constructed.
“That building ended up a lot better than what I thought it was going to be. Structurally, those buildings are in good shape,” Wiggins said. “Volunteers did a heckuva job. They saved that city block. Thirty minutes into it, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to lose that city block.
“It was a good operation.”
No injuries were reported.
Duke Energy restored power to the smoke-damaged businesses during the afternoon. Personnel returned to clean up.
Officers from the Mount Olive Police Department secured the building and sat outside overnight until investigators returned Thursday morning to further assess the scene.
By law, the fire chief is responsible to find the cause and origin of the fire. Erring on the side of caution, Wiggins sought assistance from Wayne County Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor, state fire marshals (department of insurance), the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and SBI.
“Not that we suspected foul play, but with any commercial business with a large loss, we want to identify what actually caused the fire,” Wiggins said. “They’ve got a lot of resources they can access quicker than I can and most of the time I have to go through them for some of the resources, so it was best to have them on the scene with us.”
Wiggins said he doesn’t expect to have a full investigative report for two months.