The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

March 26, 2014

Second blaze destroys what was left of home

Officials rule fire suspicious

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 — Fire engulfed a house that also burned three years ago, marking the second suspicious fire there.

Firefighters responded to a 10:01 p.m. Sunday blaze that finished off an already burned house at 321 Crowell Ave., according to Albemarle Fire Department Chief Shawn Oke. Fire officials call the blaze suspicious.

It’s the same residence that sustained $14,000 in damages in 2011, Oke said. Since that fire the house has been vacant, unsecured and without any repairs to the charred property.

“They won’t be making any repairs now because there’s not much left,” Oke said.

Fire investigators ruled the May 14, 2011 fire at the residence as intentional, Oke said.

Albemarle police interviewed suspects, according to the original report.

Albemarle police did not return a telephone message as to the status of its investigation.

Firefighters arrived at Sunday’s fully engulfed blaze that took about 15 minutes to get under control, Oke said.

City Fire Marshal Brian Taylor called the fire suspicious. Between no one living at the residence and a lack of utilities serving the dwelling, the blaze appears to have been intentionally set.

“I’m investigating it as a suspicious fire,” Taylor said.

“I’m interviewing neighbors to see if anybody saw anything.”

Taylor said the point of origin of Sunday’s fire appears to be at the front portion of the house, possibly in the living room between the front porch.

Much of the remaining property from the first fire, including wiring and metal goods, had been previously looted, Oke said.

Part of the probe centers on whether any vagrants had been living inside the remaining structure.

Evidence suggests there had been significant activity at the residence.

“There had been a lot of foot traffic,” Taylor said.

“Trucks had been there multiple times.”

Although there was no electricity at the house, firefighters had to navigate around a live wire at the scene after the fire caused a powerline to fall, Oke said.

East Side Volunteer Fire Department provided assistance since a city fire engine was on another call, Oke said.

Damages at Sunday’s blaze are estimated at $5,000, with little property value remaining at the site, officials said.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email