Local News

Rescue Mission Tries to Salvage Food After Fire

Posted April 9, 2007 3:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2007 8:12 p.m. EDT

— Volunteers sorted through thousands of canned goods Monday, trying to determine what food could be salvaged after an early morning fire destroyed the Durham Rescue Mission's pantry.

A fire broke out shortly after midnight at a building used by the mission to store food, ruining about half of the donated food inside.

No one was injured, but the building, which stored dry foods, sustained extensive damage, said Ernie Mills, Durham Rescue Mission co-founder and executive director.

"We probably lost about a three-month supply, and that's three months to feed about 180 people -- men, women and children -- three meals a day," Mills said. "The structure was damaged too much to keep. It was an old, old building anyway, so it wouldn't be financially feasible to repair."

Mission officials suspect that embers from a wood-burning stove they use both to heat the building and to warm local homeless people landed on the building's roof and started the fire shortly after midnight, he said.

The fire rekindled at about 6:15 a.m. but was quickly doused by firefighters. Some volunteers said the second fire might have damaged more of the canned goods than the first one.

"What's damaged, we'll have to throw awy. A lot has been damaged," volunteer Roger Davis said.

Mills asked for Triangle churches and civic groups to rally in support of the mission to help restock the pantry through a number of food drives. One man who heard about the fire donated a truckload of food Monday morning, he said.

All types of food can be used: canned meats, all types of canned vegetables, fruits, soups and staple items such as sugar, flour and cornmeal.

Food donations can be dropped off at 1201 E Main St. in Durham.

The Mission is also accepting monetary donations to help with the replacement of the food. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 11858, Durham, N.C. 27703 or made online at www.DurhamRescueMission.org.

Mills said no decision has been made on how the mission will store donated food. Portable storage units likely would be used in the short term, he said, and the organization would seek volunteers to help build a more permanent storage area.