Local News

Duplin warehouse fire labeled arson

Posted May 1, 2009 3:06 p.m. EDT

— A warehouse fire that burned an estimated 10 million pounds of sweet potatoes Monday was intentionally set, Duplin County Emergency Services Director Bryan Pearce said Friday.

A joint task force of the State Bureau of Investigation, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Duplin County Sheriff's Office has classified the fire as an arson case. The investigation into who set the fire and its cause was ongoing, Pearce said.

Anyone with information about the fire should call the North Carolina Arson Awareness Council at 1-800-334-3000.

A reward will be paid for tips that lead to an arrest and conviction.

The fire at Southern Produce Distributors, 110 W. Center St., broke out Sunday night and wasn't completely extinguished until Tuesday. Hundreds of firefighters from more than 60 departments participating in the effort.

The 120,000-square-foot warehouse's structural integrity was damaged, and it was likely to be a complete loss.

Southern Produce Distributor owner Stewart Precythe said the family-owned business would rebuild. A company warehouse on the same site burned to the ground in a fire that smoldered for three days in April 1988.