Local News

Firefighters Have Busy Weekend In Durham

Posted November 15, 2004 4:13 a.m. EST

— Fire officials believe one of two early morning fires in the northeast section of Durham was intentionally set.

Investigators said a fire at a wholesale seafood retailer was due to faulty wires.

Just after midnight, about 30 firefighters responded to the fire at Fresh Catch of North Carolina, located at the corner of Pearl and Mallard streets.

"Making entry into a structure like this is difficult at times, but we had the fire under control in less than 20 minutes," Battalion Chief John Krokowski said.

"There's moderate fire damage and heavy smoke damage to the entire business," Battalion Chief Luther Smith said.

Tens of thousands of pounds of fresh seafood are ruined. The Food and Drug Administration quarantined all the fish and owners plan to throw most of it away.

Fresh Catch supplies fresh seafood to country clubs and restaurants across the Triangle.

As a result of the fire, diners at Papas Grille will not have as many choices when it comes to fresh seafood.

"Well, I have to tell them that some of the seafood items I don't have. Some people will be disappointed," chef Sam Papanikas said.

It is not the first time emergency crews were called to the area. Two years ago, fire tore through a next-door building next door. Investigators believe someone set fire to that building.

Most of the chefs told WRAL they would simply improvise or use another distributor until Fresh Catch reopens.

It was a busy time for firefighters as they responded to a fire at a different location. The same crew got a call to a fire at the Murdock Apartments on Gray Avenue, about four blocks away.

"So, we broke units from here and went over to the other building," Smith said.

The second floor of a vacant apartment was on fire. They believe that one was intentionally set. As firefighters worked to put it out, they noticed another fire in the same complex.

"It was same situation -- a vacant apartment, the window busted out, medium fire damage," Smith said.

Both units were supposed to be vacant, but investigators think vagrants may have been staying in them. In one unit, firefighters noticed a strong smell of kerosene, but they are not saying whether it was used to start the fire.

On Saturday night, crews responded to a fire at the Wellington Place Apartments that has also been ruled as arson.

Officials said the fire started in Nathaniel Young's apartment when he was out of town and spread to 14 others units. The tenant believes his ex-girlfriend may be responsible.

Neighbor Travis Jackson said he called 911 after he tried to put the fire out.

"We went in there and the whole room was on fire. His bed, his clothes, there were all his clothes and shoes in a pile," Jackson said.

Investigators found a tube of lipstick next to Young's car, which was smeared with derogatory messages.

No arrests have been made. Authorities are still looking for the person or persons responsible for setting the fire.


Julia Lewis