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Blaze guts downtown shops

By Tashieka Hammond
Photo Editor

Photo by Tashieka Hammond
Firemen from five departments were on scene when a fire ripped through several businesses in Pembroke on Feb 13.

Spectators and church members watched Feb. 13 as a business complex was engulfed and destroyed by flames at 505 E. Third St. beside Kerr Drug in downtown Pembroke.

There were no injuries from the fire, according to police Chief Frank Hernandez. One firefighter was injured by a vehicle as he was directing traffic, according to the report.

Several businesses located inside the complex were destroyed, including a church which had been holding a Bible study that night.

City firefighters received the call around 9 p.m. Five area fire departments responded to the fire, which blazed for two hours before being extinguished.

Chief Hernandez said the fire was caused by electrical problems.

This conclusion was echoed by Pastor Bryan Jacobs, who was leading a Bible study at Our Freedom Ministries inside the building complex when the fire began.

“We were having Bible study when the lights flickered,” Jacobs said.

“I went out the door to check the electricity box and when I opened the door, smoke was everywhere,” he said.

Jacobs said he immediately had the church evacuated.

“I am thankful everyone got out and was safe,” Jacobs said. “We are just going to trust God for whatever we need; we will rebuild.”

Sgt. firefighter Tim Chavis said it took two to three minutes for the local fire department to arrive after the call was placed.

“Our men are working hard to [extinguish] the fire; just trying to contain the fire as best as we can is difficult since it’s moving through the roof so quickly,” Chavis said at the time.

“Pembroke is in the city district and we are the rural,” said Sgt. Firefighter Tim Chavis. “It took about two or three minutes for the local department to arrive,” he continued.

Angela Oxendine, owner of Pembroke Printing Center, said, “I can’t understand how they could not get the fire under control with five fire departments.

“I know they [were] doing the best they could, but it seems like it wasn’t enough,” she said.

Oxendine said that the Fire Department was too inexperienced to deal with the fire.

The stench of the burning building and smoke that billowed through the air as far as two miles could still be smelled at 10:15 p.m. that night and seen from anywhere in Pembroke.

The building, which is about 30 years old, was home to Pembroke Printing Center, Our Freedom Ministries church and Casey’s Alterations.

The building also housed a beauty salon, vacuum shop, florist and thrift store.

All of the businesses were destroyed beyond repair.

“No one has insurance,” the owner of the vacuum store said, as he collected his remaining items and packed them into his trunk.

“It’s all down the drain,” he said.

“I’ve already got another place in Maynor Center on Highway 72. I’ve been in business for six years so this didn’t get me down,” Oxendine said.

The business complex is owned by the Revels family of Pembroke.

Hannah Simpson and Nate Howard also contributed to this story.


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Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2008
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