A Wednesday night fire destroyed a building which was used as a warehouse by the local Habitat for Humanity.
At 10:24 p.m. Wednesday, the Marion Fire Department was called to a structure fire at 43 River Breeze Drive, located off U.S. 221 Business. Firefighters from Pleasant Gardens, Hankins/North Fork and Woodlawn/Sevier departments provided mutual aid. McDowell Emergency Management, EMS and Rescue Squad also responded to the blaze, according to Matthew Crawford, engineer with the Marion Fire Department.
The fire caused $50,000 worth of damage to the structure and an estimated $15,000 worth of damage to the items inside. This is pending an inventory of the property stored in the building, according to a report by Officer Daniel Meraz of the Marion Police Department.
Crawford said the fire is under investigation and the cause has not been determined. No one was injured in the fire.
The building is owned by Butch Justice, 67, of 3127 N.C. 226 South in Marion. Justice said Thursday morning that a neighbor living close by saw the blaze and called the fire department. He arrived on the scene as soon as he could Wednesday night.
“It was mostly out when I got here,” said Justice. “They were hitting the hot spots.”
Thursday morning, Justice and fire investigators were at the scene surveying the burned remnants of the structure. It was built on the site of the old Catawba roller skating rink, which also burned years ago. A go-cart track and a miniature golf course used to be located there, too.
Walking through the ruined structure, Justice pointed out what was left of a big-screen TV stored inside the burned building.
“It will have to go to the landfill I suppose,” said Justice. “I hate it for Habitat for Humanity.”
Four trailers are located behind the structure, which also contained items used by Habitat for Humanity. They were not affected by the fire.
Vance Caudle is the director for the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He was not aware of the fire until he was contacted late Thursday afternoon by a McDowell News reporter.
For years, Habitat for Humanity was quite active in McDowell by helping several local needy folks get better houses in which to live. But the local chapter ran into some difficulty and not much was heard from it for a long time. Caudle said the local Habitat for Humanity still existed and was using the building for warehousing until such time that it could become active again and help build new and better homes for eligible residents. The local Habitat for Humanity was hoping to build itself back up to where it used to be.
“There is still a Habitat chapter here,” he said. “We had lots of stuff in there. This is really bad news. That’s really going to disrupt our plans.”
The local chapter had brand new cabinetry in there which could have been installed in a new Habitat home. Caudle suspects that the fire could have been deliberately set by vandals.
“I don’t know who would have done that,” he said.
Caudle hopes that this fire will be blessing in disguise and inspire local folks to help the local Habitat for Humanity get active again.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” he said.