ROCKINGHAM — Fire officials aren’t sure what — or who — started the fire at the former J.P. Stevens plant late Monday night.
East Rockingham Fire Chief Bill Bayless said the fire appears to have started in the back part of a building that was being used for storage. According to Bayless, there was no electricity where the fire started, so it’s believed it was set.
Chief State Fire Marshal Brian Taylor came to the scene on Mill Road Tuesday, according to Bayless.
The building is owned by the Wright family and the front part was being used to reprocess plastic, Bayless said. He added that there was no insurance on the building.
The tax value of the property is $300,000, but Bayless said adding in the value of the equipment that was lost, the damage estimate would be closer to half a million.
On Tuesday, the N.C. Forest Service was using a helicopter to dump water on the still-smoking property, which Bayless said could keep smoldering for about a week.
The thick, black smoke could be seen for miles, rising above the treetops. Debris from the fire littered the streets of downtown Rockingham.
Bayless said the call came in around 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Ladder trucks were brought in from the Rockingham, Hamlet, Southern Pines and Laurinburg fire departments. Ellerbe, Cordova and Northside provided trucks and manpower. The Lilesville Fire Department also responded and was on standby for Cordova and East Rockingham.
“I’m very appreciate of the other departments that came and helped us last night,” Bayless said.
The ERFD was on the scene until 6:30 a.m. Tuesday