05/12/04 — Fire probe closed without resolution

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Fire probe closed without resolution

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 12, 2004 2:07 PM

A 10-day-long investigation has not determined a cause of a fire that destroyed the Wayne County Memorial Community Building, Goldsboro police said today. The fire occurred on Sunday, May 2.

An investigation by police and the State Bureau of Investigation determined that the fire started in the main office in the first floor, Police Chief Tim Bell said in a news release.

Several samples of debris were collected and tested by the SBI lab. No ignitable liquids were detected, Bell said.

The exact cause remained undetermined, and police and the SBI have closed their investigation.

"It could be electrical, accidental or incendiary," Sgt. David Kelly, the lead police investigator, said today. "But it was not providential, an act of God."

Officials had speculated during the fire that lightning from a strong afternoon thunderstorm may have started the blaze, which appeared to spectators to have begun in the cupola atop the roof. But the lead SBI investigator, Special Agent John Rea, ruled out lightning the next day.

The 79-year-old building was valued at $1.7 million and contents were valued at $50,000, officials said.

It was insured.

The building housed a swimming pool, gymnasium and offices. Many city leaders had said they had learned to swim in the pool.

The Goldsboro Recreation and Parks Department used the building. The Wayne County Youth Outreach Program had offices there.

The building was constructed shortly after World War I as a memorial to the Wayne County residents who died in that conflict. The foundation that built it deeded it to "the people of Wayne County."

Generations of Goldsboro children had used it.

A board of directors is considering where and how to rebuild it.

The building had been damaged Nov. 16, 2001, in a fire caused by an electrical short in a drop cord. Damage was estimated at $38,000.