Local News

Neighbors recall seeing strange activity leading up to Durham fire, officials suspect arson

Posted August 14, 2020 12:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2020 8:00 p.m. EDT

— The fire that burned through a construction site of luxury townhomes in Durham Aug. 12 was "intentionally set," according to Durham officials.

Multiple homes under construction in The Grove, off Jackson Street, behind 505 W. Chapel Hill Street, burned just before midnight.

The motive for burning the construction site is not yet known by officials, but neighbors said they "aren't surprised" by the suspected arson.

Danny Furr has lived on Gordon Street for 32 years, who sits outside on his porch regularly at night, with his dog Bella next to him, watching the neighborhood.

Lately, he’s noticed more than just construction workers across the street.

"I had seen a man going in and out of there and I guess he was sleeping there," said Furr.

Bella’s barking woke him up late Tuesday night as a fire grew taller than the townhomes under construction.

On Friday, investigators determined someone intentionally set the fire.

Durham police are now working to find a person of interest, who has not yet been identified. A formal criminal investigation is being conducted by Durham officials.

The flames destroyed at least one of six townhomes — but others appear untouched.

Chris Iannuzzi, the Deputy Fire Chief C18, said, “We do have a lot of photos. The community has been fantastic.”

Furr said he’s already talked with investigators about the man seen across the street a few times a week over the last few months.

“It was the only one that I ever saw, was this one man," said Furr.

He’s hoping whoever is responsible is caught soon. And he’s thankful his home is still standing.

“God bless the fire department and the police department of this city, because you did your job," he said.

One three-story home was completely damaged during the fire.

The fire was brought under control in 30 minutes, but the structure collapsed and damaged the two homes on either side of it.

The fire took more than 60 firefighters to get under control. A contractor onsite said a firewall prevented more widespread damage.

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