The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 4, 2014

Historic feed mill burns in Oakboro

By B.J. Drye, Editor
CNHI

Friday, April 4, 2014 — A nearly 80-year-old building burned down Thursday night just a few blocks from Oakboro’s volunteer fire department.

Firefighters were dispatched at midnight and arrived at Oakboro Feed Mill four minutes later to discover the building fully engulfed.

“After I assumed command I realized the building was too far involved to put any firemen in the structure, so I deemed it a defensive attack,” Shea Morton, assistant fire chief for Oakboro Fire & Rescue, said.

“We were going to fight it from the outside.”

West Stanly and Ridgecrest fire departments worked to extinguish the blaze at the mill, which is at the corner of Pine Street and N.C. Highway 205.

Morton requested assistance from Aqudale, Endy and New Salem fire departments as well to bring extra water to the scene.

“To help support the engines with the needed fire flow, I needed the tankers to assist the fire flow with that water,” Morton said.

It took about an hour to bring the fire under control, he said.

Stanly County Fire Marshal Michael Roark said he spent much of early Friday morning investigating the site where the 2,400-square-foot structure once stood.

“Unfortunately, based on the damage that was sustained to the building, there was not a whole lot for us to look at,” Roark said.

Samples were sent to state labs for examination.

“Not that we’re saying it’s a suspicious fire at this point, we’re just not ruling it out,” Roark said.

Roark said Reggie Burris, owner of the mill, spoke to him during the investigation. According to Roark, Burris was last at the mill around 9 a.m. Thursday. The last time Burris used any of the machinery inside was Tuesday, Roark said.

Burris could not be reached for comment at this time.

Assistant fire chief Morton said it was a wood frame building that had tin on the sides and the roof.

“I don’t know if it was open every day, but most of the days he was there,” Morton said.

“He still milled corn and stuff like that.

“I can remember going to the feed mill with my grandpa when I was little. That’s been 35 years ago.”

The feed mill was built in 1937.

“Oakboro lost an important piece of history last night with the burning of the Burris mill,” Oakboro Regional Museum of History board member Annabelle Morgan wrote in an email to the SNAP Friday morning.

Morgan went on to explain the history of the building.

“The Crowell-Burris seed grader began as a mill operated by H. H. Little,” she said.

“When the first structure burned, the current structure was built with help from local business owner Earl Crowell, who operated it until his death. The mill was then purchased by Reggie Burris.

“The mill has been the only operational mill in the area.”

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Stanly County fire marshal’s office at (704) 986-3650.

To submit story ideas, contact B.J. Drye at bj@stanlynewspress.com or (704) 982-2121 ext. 25.