Thursday, December 12, 2013 —
STANFIELD — Were it not for its fire alarm and sprinkler system, West Stanly Christian Ministries may have gone up in flames in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Instead, the crisis assistance organization is facing water and smoke damage in part of its building, but hopes to reopen its thrift store within days. "Even though the sprinkler system did create damage, it's like we always say...'Everything dries out; nothing unburns,'" said Stanly County Fire Marshal Michael Roark. "Without that sprinkler system, the fire department would still be there spraying water on the shell of the building. It would have burned down." West Stanly Fire Chief Tripp Crosby agreed, citing the structure's age and wooden interior. He said his department received the call around 3:39 a.m. and personnel found smoke at the rear of the building when they arrived some five minutes later. After forcing their way into the front door, they found the majority of the fire had been extinguished by two sprinkler heads that had been activated by the fire's heat. Roark said the blaze, which started on the first floor in the general merchandise area near a display of mattresses and bedding, was caused by a malfunction with one of the building's electrically-powered heating units. "Their heat source is a wood-burning furnace that heats water that is then piped to overhead hanging heating units," Roark explained. "The wood-fired water heater had nothing to do with the fire. It was due to an electrical malfunction of the overhead heater's fan motor." While several hundred dollars worth of merchandise was burned, Roark said there was hardly any structural fire damage to the building, but that the majority of the damage was caused by water and smoke. He said water seeped through the floor and into the basement running into light fixtures and wiring and causing an additional hazard, which meant electricity had to be cut off to the entire building. West Stanly Fire Department was assisted by Ridgecrest, Oakboro and Midland departments with some 25 personnel on the scene including fire investigators and building inspectors. Robert Britt, managing director of West Stanly Christian Ministries, said the ministry will continue to try to respond to calls for assistance even as the damage is being assessed and a plan for repairs and reopening is being formulated. He asked for prayers and patience. "We didn't anticipate our power being completely shut down, but we want to make sure everything is checked out and OK before going further," he said. Britt said he will update the ministry's facebook page to let patrons know when the thrift store is ready to reopen.