5-alarm fire destroys staple of East Spencer community

by: Catherine Bilkey Updated:

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SPENCER, N.C. —

Fire investigators in Rowan County will be back at a burned out building Wednesday morning to find out what caused a massive fire Tuesday night in East Spencer.

PHOTOS: Crews respond to 2-alarm fire in east Spencer

Flames broke out and quickly spread in a building on South Long Street -- which was once a junior high school -- and reached high into the sky around 7 p.m.

When firefighters arrived on scene they found heavy fire on the side of the building. It quickly upgraded to a 2-alarm fire, and fire crews ultimately increased the response to a 5-alarm because of the need for tankers and water.

RAW VIDEO: East Spencer building fire


The fire marshal said 75 firefighters were on scene battling the flames, and that the building was a big part of the community.

"The Dunbar Center has been a staple in the community for over 50 years. It was a school, then a community center and recently became vacant," said Rowan County Fire Marshal Deborah Horne.

VIDEO: Fire Marshal press conference

Some of the firefighters who worked to put out the flames attended the school as children.

Firefighters were able to enter the building Wednesday morning to conduct a partial search and the SBI was set to begin their investigation.

Horne said the cold weather presented a challenge for firefighters but a nearby church opened their doors to help them. The Red Cross also helped firefighters with food and beverages as they worked to keep the fire under control Wednesday morning.

As the investigation continues, community members hope the fire was not intentionally set. They told Channel 9 they have good memories of the building.

“There’s  a lot of memories there,” Dennis Sturdivant said. “It’s a sad situation. But hopefully something good come out of it.”

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