11/24/04 — Blaze damages Delmus' Hardware

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Blaze damages Delmus' Hardware

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on November 24, 2004 2:01 PM

A fire Tuesday night swept through the Delmus' Hard-ware Store at 1003 N. Berkeley Blvd. and also damaged the Goldsboro Bingo World parlor next door.

The cause of the fire that resulted in at least $40,000 in damages had not been determined, a fire official said today.

Assistant Fire Chief Ray Boyette said he had turned over an investigation of the fire cause to police.

"We hadn't pinpointed the cause," Boyette said, "because of the way everything burned."

The on-call police investigator, Seth Harris, did a preliminary inquiry of the fire. Later this morning, police Sgt. David Kelly and SBI Agent John Rea began a full-scale investigation.

"I'm glad that it wasn't any worse than it was," said Fire Chief Bobby Greenfield, who arrived soon after the fire was reported.

No one was injured during the blaze that was spotted by police Officer Michael Cordts who was on routine patrol at about 10:30 p.m.

Boyette said he was concerned that the fire might have ignited hazardous materials, including pesticides, and the fumes might have spread across Dr. M.L. King Jr. Expressway, the busy U.S. 70 bypass, snarling traffic.

Boyette asked Wayne County Emergency Services to help because of the possible threat of toxic materials. Delbert Edwards, who is also a volunteer fire chief, came to assist.

However, the store owner, Paul Bridgers, told them that the merchandise in that part of the building had been moved.

"That eased my mind," Boyette said.

Boyette said he wanted to return to the building in daylight to get a firmer estimate of the damages and the cause of the fire. The amount of damages to the bingo parlor also had not been determined.

The 20,500-square-foot hardware store building and the contents were valued at $1 million, the assistant chief said.

Sixteen firefighters answered the 10:32 p.m. alarm and needed almost five and a half hours to put out the fire, investigate the cause, ventilate the building and finish salvage work.

The first engine company to arrive, the No. 2 station on Royall Avenue, saw fire and smoke. Boyette said their pumper attacked the fire, and the No. 5 station laid a line for water.

"We thought it was the bingo parlor at first," Boyette said. "When they got inside, they realized it Delmus Hardware. Engine Companies 2 and 3 made a quick attack to knock it down enough to keep it from spreading."

The fire burned through the walls, but firefighters kept the blaze from spreading any farther into the bingo parlor. Then firefighters from the Central Heights station ventilated the roof.

Boyette said he had considered calling in a fourth engine company because the fire was spreading so fast. But when those inside said they had found the point of origin, he decided not to.

"Luckily, where they had confined the fire in one area, the merchandise had been moved," Boyette said.

Surrounding volunteer fire departments also were put on stand-by in case the city had other fire calls.

Today, in the fire's aftermath, slivers of glittering green glass littered the doorway of Delmus' Hardware Store.

But even the lingering smell of smoke permeating the morning air and the charred rocking chair propping open the front door didn't stop customers from trying to enter the building.

One man shuffled up to the doorway, telling officers he needed to get inside.

"I'm sorry sir," replied the officer. "This is a crime scene."

Delmus Bridgers, whose son Paul owns the business, said he didn't know what had happened.

"I was in the bed when Paul called," he said. "I haven't even been down there."

Bridgers said that his son had moved most of the store's inventory out of the space because he was planning to rent it.

"He was using one part of it as an office, and I think it might have started in there," he said. "All I know is that it was right beside the bingo place."

Officers taped up the scene this morning, stepping gingerly into the building to begin their investigation.

A woman from a neighboring business asked Ed Cianfarra, Goldsboro's chief building inspector, why the water wasn't working in the shopping center.

Cianfarra told her to call the water department, because it didn't have anything to do with the fire.

It's the second time in the past six months that the hardware store has been damaged.

In May, a Goldsboro motorist, fleeing from Goldsboro police at about 115 mph, lost control of his car, police said, and flew over a guardrail at a bypass ramp and crashed into the store, about 270 feet from the road.

The car ended up inside the store, bursting through a wall.

Cianfarra said that the permit for those repairs were estimated at over $60,000, and that the repair work had been completed.

In July, Paul Bridgers applied for an additional permit, for $13,500, to renovate an area to build a new office. The renovation work had not been completed.