Local News

Owner Plans to Rebuild Strip Mall Damaged by Fire

Posted September 14, 2007 1:08 p.m. EDT
Updated September 14, 2007 5:59 p.m. EDT

— Authorities spent much of Friday sifting through the charred remains of strip mall in an attempt to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a carpet shop and a warehouse.

The fire broke out at about 7 p.m. Thursday in the storage area of Spring Lake Carpet and Interiors, at 245 S. Bragg Blvd., authorities said. The fire was fed by the rolls of carpet and the petroleum-based chemicals, glue and paint inside the business.

Two 500-gallon propane tanks exploded, spreading the fire to an adjacent warehouse used for storage by Billy and Charlie Wellons, the owners of the Wellons Plaza strip mall. About 50 years worth of files and documents stored in the warehouse were destroyed.

"We were pretty detailed fanatics, so we never threw anything away," Billy Wellons said.

The fire was so intense that it melted nearby power lines, knocking out electricity to the neighborhood, authorities said. Firefighters from 14 departments in Harnett and Cumberland counties and Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base were called to battle the fire.

Firefighters stayed at Wellons Plaza through the night and into Friday morning to douse remaining hot spots.

No foul play is suspected in the fire, but nothing had been ruled out as of Friday evening, said Capt. Andy Thomas, of the Spring Lake Fire Department.

Ellen Hemby, who managed Spring Lake Carpet for 26 years, said she left work at about 5 p.m. Thursday but stopped by the business about an hour later to ensure everything was locked down for the night.

"I double-checked to make sure everything was turned off," Hemby said. "Everything was fine."

Hemby said she lost a Bible and pictures of her mother and her wedding in the fire. But she joked about a filing cabinet that made it through the fire unscathed.

"The filing cabinet is still standing. I'm watching it," she said with a laugh. “We’re not down and out. We’ll just pick ourselves up and keep going.”

Five other businesses in Wellons Plaza sustained smoke damage from the fire, and they moved to temporary quarters in Holland Plaza, a nearby shopping center, until the stores could be repaired and the Wellons Plaza building is ruled structurally sound. Authorities credited a fire wall with preventing further damage to the other businesses

Billy Wellons said about 16,000 square feet of retail space was destroyed in the fire. But he said he and his brother plan to clean up and rebuild.

"It's terrible, really, but you have to deal with these things every day. There's some kind of problem that you face every day," he said. "(The warehouse) was an old Chevrolet dealership in Spring Lake. It's part of Spring Lake history."