Local News

Investigators Reveal Details in Warehouse Fire Deaths

Posted November 5, 1998

— The flag at the Wayne Auto Salvage is flying at half-staff in honor of two firefighters killed in the line of duty Friday afternoon while battling a blaze at the warehouse just outside of Goldsboro.

Saturday, investigators say they believe the two firefighters got lost inside the warehouse. They also suspect one of them ran out of oxygen while he tried to find his way out.

The fire began around 11:00 Friday morning and ended hours later in tragedy. Sidney Jones, 29, was chief of the Thoroughfare volunteer fire department. Robbie Blizzard, 24, was a volunteer for the Arrington department, and a full time firefighter with the city of Goldsboro.

Blizzard's firefighting gear is now displayed beneath a red, white, and blue wreath at the Goldsboro fire department. Blizzard fought the blaze as a volunteer after coming off a 24 hour shift in Goldsboro.

"That was the one thing they always said about them, sometimes I think they were too eager to go in," said Cathy Eubanks of the Goldsboro Fire Department. "But he loved what he was doing."

The deaths are devastating for Wayne County's fire-rescue workers, who are wearing black bands around their badges. Howard Shaw knew Sidney Jones professionally and personally.

"He was a super guy and very knowledgeable," Shaw said. "He really worked hard for his community and for the county."

Investigators say a spark from a welding torch started the fire. They now believe Jones and Blizzard became disoriented among the rows of auto supplies inside the warehouse. Jones may have also been short on oxygen.

"He was probably low on air at the time he became disoriented, so once he was lost he had very little time to get out of the building," state fire marshal deputy Tim Bradley said.

Investigators say dashboards made of highly flammable plastic were stored on the top racks. Conditions inside the building changed the instant the flames reached those shelves.

"In the initial attack, had they faced those conditions, they would not have been as deep," Bradley said. "They would not have penetrated as far and quite frankly, they couldn't have or wouldn't have expected the conditions to be as bad as they were."

State officials say volunteer firefighters go through the same training as career firefighters, so they don't believe that's an issue in this case. Investigators will issue a report next week.

State Fire Marshal Spokesman Tim Bradley described the scene of the fire.

"It's one big room," Bradley says. "There are a lot of racks, storage racks where they store automobile parts like hoods, dashes. In the initial investigation of the fire cause, it appears a substantial amount of the fireload came from the cardboard and dashes that were stored high on the racks."

An additional firefighter, and a welder, were taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital where they were treated and released.

Other firefighters were treated on the scene for minor injuries.

The warehouse, which belongs to Gary Bevell, was a fairly new structure.

The Wayne County Firemen's Association has established a separate memorial fund for each of the fallen firemen. Donations can be sent to:Robbie Blizzard Memorial Fundc/o BB&TPO Box 1677Goldsboro, NC 27533 or Sydney Jones Memorial Fundc/o BB&TPO Box 1677Goldsboro, NC 27533


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