by: Dave Faherty Updated:
HICKORY, N.C. - Firefighters in Hickory are trying to determine what caused an empty restaurant to go up in flames early Friday morning.
Emergency crews were called to Wesley's Tavern -- which had yet to open -- on Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard, just north of Interstate 40, around 5 a.m. and found flames and smoke shooting from the building. The business is better know to locals as a Chinese restaurant.
Fire investigators have been inside but because the roof collapsed they have to move a lot of debris.
Brian Meeks hoped to open the business this summer.
"I didn't believe it. I jumped out of bed and threw on these clothes and by the time I got off the interstate, I could see the fire trucks but it was pretty much all gone by the time I got here," said Meeks.
Tom Sobansky grabbed his camera after learning about the fire not far from his home in Hickory.
When he arrived, he was surprised to see the amount of damage.
"I rolled up in my car and saw the flames shooting 15-feet in the air. I saw this was a pretty big fire. It was shooting through the roof pretty good," Sobansky said.
Firefighters in Hickory are getting help from police and state fire investigators.
Because of the damage, it may be several days before they can determine a cause.
Meeks said the fire won't keep him from his dream of opening the tavern.
"We are still going to move forward. I'm going to do everything in my power to get the ball back rolling. It has been a dream of mine for the last 15 to 20 years,” Meeks said.
One thing firefighters believe they have been able to rule out is a lightning strike.
They checked and didn't find any storms over the area Thursday night.
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