Fire at historic homestead still under investigation
Posted March 4, 2009 12:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Federal, state and county investigators on Wednesday were back at the scene of a fire that destroyed a historic Wake County homestead Tuesday morning.
The fire broke out around 7:45 a.m., and flames quickly spread throughout the 4,200-square-foot house at Long Branch Farm in southeastern Wake County.
The four people in the home escaped unharmed, as did one of the family's two dogs.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire, but say they believe it started in the center of the home.
They used arson dogs to sniff for accelerants, which Wake County Fire Services' Ray Echevarria said is routine when a cause is unknown.
"It could have been an accident. It could have been something otherwise. We just don't know, but we're trying to make use of every tool," Echevarria said. "At this point, we haven't ruled out any possibility."
The house, which dates to the Civil War era, appeared to be a total loss. A 10-acre equestrian center near the house was unaffected by the fire.
Neighbor Cindy Baucom said there had been talk before the fire that the owner, Laura Francis, was ready to move on.
"The house was in her ex-husband's family," Baucom said. "I'm sure she was thinking along the terms of creating a new life."
She said she believes the fire was an accident.
"The furnace is what we're kind of guessing," she said. "I think she was supposed to have it looked at yesterday. I think that it had been tripping and coming on and off."
Francis was not available to comment Wednesday.
"I'm not sure what they'll do," Baucom said. "I suspect that Laura will open a new chapter (of her life)."