Fire marshal: One fire intentional, one burns from exposure

Published 4:48 pm Monday, February 3, 2020

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Investigators with Albemarle Police Department and the Albemarle Fire Marshal’s Office are collaborating after fires consumed two law offices Sunday morning.

Albemarle and the North Carolina Air National Guard fire departments were dispatched shortly after 4 a.m. to the Charles Parnell Law Offices at 200 S. Second St.

Engine 121 firefighters arrived on the scene at 4:24 a.m. Engines 111 and 131 then arrived along with a battalion chief to help contain the fire.

Around 5 a.m., fire department personnel noticed the building housing the law offices of Mark Lowder and Kirk Bowling, at 120 King Ave., was also on fire.

Fire Marshal Michael Roark said the roof of the Lowder building likely caught fire from embers from the Parnell fire. Roark said the fire at Parnell’s office has been determined to be intentionally set.

Firefighters emerge from the back of the Parnell and Scales law office in downtown Albemarle Sunday morning.

Off-duty firefighters along with personnel from Bethany, East Side, Endy, N.C. Air National Guard, New London, Center Rural and Oakboro fire departments also responded to the scene to assist, with 76 fire service personnel on scene.

Millingport, Richfield and South Side fire departments filled in at Albemarle stations to answer any other emergency calls within the city.

Albemarle Fire Department has received fire investigative assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, The Office of the State Fire Marshal and Union County Fire Marshal’s Office’s Accelerant Detection K-9 and handler.

Anyone with information into this fire is encouraged to contact the Albemarle Fire Department or the Albemarle Police Department.

“Albemarle Fire Department would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all agencies involved in assisting during this time,” Roark said. “In addition to the agencies previously listed, we would also like to thank Albemarle Police Department, Stanly County EMS, Stanly County Emergency Services and Stanly County 911.”

The Parnell office on South Second Street is historically known as the King House. A small cottage was built in 1850 on the site across from the courthouse. The current structure, as it was, dated back to 1898. In the mid-1990s it was undergoing renovations when it was hit by lightning.

Lowder’s office was constructed in the early 1920s as the Albemarle Bakery, ancestor of the Albemarle Sweet Shop.