Local News

Fire at day care is latest to unoccupied structure in Clayton

Posted April 5, 2010
Updated April 6, 2010

— Clayton police and fire investigators were dealing the latest in a string of suspicious fires Monday.

The blaze was reported at Building Blocks Childcare, a day care under construction at  55 Hawkesburg Drive near the 3100 block of Vinson Road in Clayton, just before 4 a.m.

"We say it's very suspicious due to the fact that it is under construction," Clayton Police Department Captain J.L. Gerrell said.
About four homes under construction have been set on fire in recent months and Powhatan Elementary School, across the street from the day care, suffered a rash of vandalism in January and February. A school bus there also caught fire.

"The blaze is considered very suspicious because other buildings under construction in the vicinity were intentionally burned in October 2009 and in January 2010," according to a Clayton police press release.

Clayton daycare fire ruled 'suspicious' Clayton day-care fire ruled 'suspicious'

Building Blocks owner Lois Stephenson said she has been nervous about arson in the area recently and decided to install aerial lights.

"We were hoping they would be a deterrent to whatever was going on. Also the police have been very diligent about providing surveillance to the area," she said. "I'm really angry and just so sad about the whole thing."

Authorities told Stephenson that an officer was across the street in the Powhatan Elementary parking lot about 30 minutes before the fire was called in.

“So they've been doing their job,” Stephenson said. "They were keeping things looked after, but where there is evil, it has a way of getting in.”

Stephenson said she planned to have her daughter serve as director of the day care, which was scheduled to open Aug. 1 with 200 children and 35 staff members. She has insurance and plans to rebuild.

“(It's) just a matter of when the insurance adjusters say I can begin and we’ll be ready to go again," Stephenson said.

Terri Benson lives next door to where the day care center was being built. "I always felt safe, but now you just don't know," she said.

The Clayton Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation are trying to determine the cause and origin of the fire, along with the Clayton Fire Marshall.

No one was hurt, and there was no word on what caused the blaze.
Anyone that may have seen any suspicious vehicles or people in the area from 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, or have any information about the fire, should call Clayton police at 919-553-4611 or Clayton Crime Stoppers at 919-359-TIPZ (8479).

A reward is available for confidential information that leads to an arrest.


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  • AmberD Apr 6, 2010

    broken_arrow_91W - You have a very sick sense of humor. A far cry from "creative sarcasm".

  • Fx432 Apr 5, 2010

    Vol. fireman, white male, age 19-24 who thinks it is "cool" to fight fire. Time to investigate which ones were at every fire before somebody dies. Arsonist usually burn any thing, vol. fireman arsonist are always careful to pick un-occupied dwellings.

  • ucc26 Apr 5, 2010

    hlpittman I agree with you once again and give you full support on these other loosers that dont know what they are talking about. I have worked for them for 7 years and love every minute of it . we are a child care center not a "day care". For the people that do have children that read this or have made rude comments you might want to check out the center where your child is at and see what their teachers are all about. At Building Blocks we have education.

  • hlpittman Apr 5, 2010

    to finish the last sentence from my last post. We need more people to be educated on what quality early childhood education looks like. thanks ucc26 for the support

  • hlpittman Apr 5, 2010

    No those suggestions don't help and you trying to be funny really annoys me. I have worked for this woman for almost 9 years and have seen the hard work and determination she has put into all 3 centers she owns and the 4th center she was planning to make them some of the top 3 centers in Johnston County. Obviously you are one of those largely misguided people that thinks child care centers do nothing but babysit children all day. Granted there may be some that do that but the centers owned by this woman do not fall into this category. She has very high standards for all of her employees to work towards continuing their education so that they can be the most effective teachers possible. Nevermind all the required trainings that the state sets in place for early childhood educators. your newest suggestions are nothing but visual appearances and have nothing to do with the quality of the center. and no i don't need a doctor, we just need more people to be educated on what quality e

  • ucc26 Apr 5, 2010

    hlpittman I agree with you . she is a very hard working lady and does everything she possibly can for the children that she serves in the community. she has 3 wonderful facilities that she has worked very hard toward and does a great job keeping up with all of them. there is no other center in any of the counties around that I would rather have my child at than Building Blocks. They deserve all 5 stars they have worked so hard to get . Great job Lois and staff. You all do a wonderful job

  • 5-113 FA Retired Apr 5, 2010


    I apologize for my suggestion. If it would make it better for the children, I would suggest the fake brick underpining and a rain shelter for the smoking area. Would it meet a five-star rating with those up-grades?

    Wow! If you took my first post as anything other than creative sarcasm, see your doctor. He has the medicine you need. ;-))

  • hlpittman Apr 5, 2010

    broken_arrow_91W: really a couple of double wides, monkey bars, and a smoking area? This woman works hard every day to make sure that the children and families she serves get high quality education not just a run down dump of a day care. True child care is much more than just babysitting and there is no way that your suggestions would come close to meeting the state licensing requirements for a 5 star center like the other 3 of her centers are. I'm not even sure that your ideas would get you a one star license. There are people out there who are trying to help the children of the community become better and responsible citizens and not just maintaining a sense of fitting into the community.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Apr 5, 2010

    Put the day care in a couple of double-wides. That, in combination with some monkey bars and a smoking area for the children over five should blend in quite nicely with the rest of the county.

  • superman Apr 5, 2010

    If it were my building and I was kinda "anxious" in addition to the lights-- I would have installed motion detector video cams. They are really cheap.