Arson is suspected in four fires early Thursday morning in downtown Mount Airy.
Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said the fires that were set in three buildings and one box truck full of tires were all set sometime after midnight. The truck and buildings are owned by local businessman Dean Bray Jr.
The fires were within two miles of each other on South Street.
“It was back to back to back. It started off as a box trailer fire at Bray’s Recapping. We noticed that a fire had been started across the street in a warehouse. Luckily most of that fire was suppressed by the sprinkler system. What got our attention was that we noticed water flowing out the door. The system operated like it was supposed to do. That is why we do fire inspections,” said Poindexter.
He said 45 minutes later, the department was dispatched to a fire at the Rabbit Hole Country Thrift Store at the corner of Hadley and South South streets.
“It went fast. By the time we got there, flames were already lapping out of the building,” said Poindexter.
He said the department used its ladder truck to suppress the flames shooting from the roof.
At 5:21 a.m., the department was dispatched to Marshall’s Furniture. He said that fire was in an outbuilding around the back of the business. He said that structure was about 400 or 500 square feet. That blaze is estimated to have caused $4,000 worth of damage to the building and $1,500 to the contents.
Poindexter said it is unusual to have that many fires in one night.
“This is basically unheard of,” said Poindexter.
Last year, seven structure fires were reported in city limits, according to the fire department’s 2011 annual report. There was one fire reported in a structure other than in a building. Several vehicle and kitchen fires also were reported.
No injuries were reported in the Thursday morning fires.
Poindexter said he is proud of the way not only his department worked hard through the night, but how everyone involved worked together as a team.
“All our guys put forth a maximum effort. Our guys worked really diligently. The police department and the other departments were a great help,” said Poindexter.
Bray, who owns numerous properties in the city, has reported several thefts and property damage to officials with the Mount Airy Police Department over the past couple of years.
Bray said the fires did not keep his staff from working at Bray’s Recapping on Thursday. He was thankful that the fire department was able to put out the blaze in the truck behind the main building so that it didn’t spread into the work areas. He said he does have insurance on all the properties involved in the fires.
“I was lucky I did this time,” said Bray.
He said he is not aware of anyone who would want to burn his property.
“If there was a problem, they should just come to you,” said Bray.
The damage to the building in which the Rabbit Hole was located was valued at $138,000, with contents valued at $5,000. The warehouse across from Bray’s Recapping is estimated to have $30,000 worth of damage. The truck received $15,000 worth of damage.
In addition to Mount Airy’s fire department, members of Bannertown, Franklin, Four Way, Westfield and White Plains volunteer fire departments responded to either battle the blaze or stand-by for Mount Airy during the fires. Surry County Emergency Services and the American Red Cross responded to assist firefighters.
Anyone with information about the fires is urged to call the Mount Airy Police Department at 786-3535 or Crime Stoppers at 786-4000.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.