Sanford, N.C. — Investigators on Tuesday were trying to determine what sparked a warehouse fire that lit up the sky over downtown Sanford Monday night.
A warehouse at the corner of Chatham and Maple streets had been used through the years for everything from selling groceries wholesale to making caskets. Lately, it served as a warehouse for several local merchants.
"It had pottery, antiques and household furniture and that type of material stored in it," Sanford Fire Chief Wayne Barber said. "So, it had a good fuel load."
Four tons of clay for D.K. Clay, the largest pottery studio in town, was among the items stored in the warehouse.
"When you go in, you think, 'Well, maybe it's just smoke damage.' But then, when you look into it, you see the sky through the front door, (and) you know it's pretty bad," D.K. Clay co-owner Kenneth Neilsen said.
Neilsen estimates the studio lost up to $50,000 in clay and equipment in the fire. The equipment was used to dig up local clay and make it into works of art.
"It's neat to be able to say it was dug in Lee County, and you know it's made from Lee County clay," he said.
Steele-Wicker Street Gallery, a local antiques shop, also lost between $20,000 and $40,000 of goods that were in the warehouse.
Investigators said the fire started at about 8 p.m. Monday in the back of the building, which houses a scrap metal business. They haven't yet determined the cause, but they said it doesn't appear to be arson.
No one was in the warehouse when the fire started, and no injuries were reported.
A firewall in the building, which has stood in downtown Sanford since 1922, kept the fire from spreading, authorities said. The portion of the warehouse used by D.K. Clay and the antiques shop will have to be razed, authorities said.
Neilsen and his business partner, Don Hudson, said the fire won't impact The North Carolina Pottery Fair that D.K. Clay is holding this weekend at the State Fairgrounds. It also won't affect any of D.K. Clay's shops.