Local News

Fire destroys historic Wake County homestead

Posted March 3, 2009 8:13 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Firefighters from several departments battled a house fire at historic Long Branch Farm in southeastern Wake County Tuesday morning.

The 4,200-square-foot house, at 2400 Branch Road, has an apartment attached to it, which also burned, authorities said. Four people inside the house at the time escaped unharmed, but one of two dogs at the home was still missing Wednesday afternoon.

"It's a shame. It's a beautiful house that they had, and unfortunately, it's probably destroyed," Wake County Deputy Fire Marshal Charles Ottaway said.

Al Winsett, who was a caretaker on the farm for more than a dozen years, said the fire destroyed a piece of local history.

The farm, which has operated in recent years as an equestrian center, includes a Civil War battle site and "is the site of one of the oldest homesteads within this area," according to its Web site.

"They're good folks. We've loved them," Winsett said. "We just felt like family with them."

No horses were injured in the fire.

Authorities think the fire started in the center of the house at about 7:45 a.m. and quickly spread throughout the building, Ottaway said. Investigators planned to return to the farm Wednesday, after the area had cooled, to begins sifting through the rubble to determine the cause of the fire, he said.

Crews were still putting water on the house after noon.

Video from Sky 5 showed flames shooting through the roof of the two-story home, sending black smoke into the morning sky. Fire crews braved temperatures in the teens and were hampered by a lack of water lines. Numerous tankers were called to the scene to supply water.

Wake County real estate data lists the property owner as Laura S. Francis.

The family that owns the home declined to talk Tuesday, so it was unclear whether they plan to rebuild.