02/12/09 — Center Street blaze appears to be accidental

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Center Street blaze appears to be accidental

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 12, 2009 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro firefighters battle a house fire at 906 N. Center St. on Wednesday afternoon. Officials say the blaze appears to be accidental.

Emmuel Lewis Jr. had been remodeling 908 N. Center Street, which was deemed a total loss after a fire Wednesday afternoon.

It was the second house fire to cause major damages on Wednesday, Fire Chief Gary Whaley said.

Emmuel Lewis Sr., the owner of the home, said his son was in Clinton when reports of the fire were called in to authorities around 11:42 a.m.

It took about 45 minutes for Goldsboro firefighters to bring the situation under control, and units remained on the scene until 3:22 p.m., the chief said.

"He (my son) was in the process of redoing, remodeling the inside," Lewis Sr. said.

The fire victim's father added that his son's mother, who lives with Lewis Sr. on nearby North James Street, had called Lewis Jr. to inform him.

Fire Chief Gary Whaley said that the investigation was not complete, but did name a preliminary probable cause of the fire.

"It appears the fire started by a wood furnace too close to combustibles," Whaley said.

What those "combustibles" were has yet to be determined, the fire chief said.

The fire appeared to be accidental, Whaley said.

"We haven't finished the investigation yet, because I haven't interviewed (Lewis Jr.)," Whaley said. "It didn't appear that there was anything suspicious about the fire."

The fire chief said he and Goldsboro Fire Engine No. 3 were the first units on scene.

"We had heavy fire and some smoke coming from the front part of the house," the chief said.

Heavy winds that the chief estimated at 30 mph made the situation worse, Whaley said.

"This 30 mph wind hurt us. It did not help matters, and it made the fire even worse and more intense," Whaley said. "Once it reached the attic, it was difficult to fight."

During the fire, another call came in from the Greenleaf Grace Apartments, and Whaley thanked the Belfast Volunteer Fire Department for responding to that scene.

The unattended cooking fire at the apartment complex was not major, and Belfast firefighters returned to assist Goldsboro at the Center Street blaze, Whaley said.

Damage to the home was estimated at $40,000, and Lewis Jr.'s destroyed property inside at about $15,000, the chief said.

Earlier on Wednesday, 3918 E. Ash Street burned, causing $35,000 in damages to the $47,000 home owned by R.E. Goodbey, the chief said.

Martin Britt is the renter occupying that home, Whaley said.

"The dispatcher advised that the caller was in the bedroom, and they were told to get out of the residence," Whaley said.

The suspected cause of the fire was an electrical heater, the fire chief said.