Update: 4:21 p.m. Wilmington Fire Department said an investigation found the fire was accidental and originated from an electrical failure in the fascia board area – that’s the long, straight board at the lower edge of the roof, which supports the bottom edge of the roof itself. The fire started at the front of the building.
WILMINGTON—A strip mall on Greenfield Street burned to the ground overnight and is still smoldering today.
Wilmington and New Hanover County Fire Department crews responded to the three-alarm fire at 1022 Greenfield St. last night, in the Lake Forest area near Greenfield Lake.
The blaze ultimately consumed most of the Village Plaza shopping center, which houses multiple businesses, including the Quails Quality Cuts barber shop, Spiros’ Breakfast and Lunch House, and World Beauty Supply. The fire also gutted the Everybody’s Supermarket grocery store and destroyed the CityLife Church.
The fire also destroyed two parked vehicles. No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire.
New Hanover County Fire Battalion Chief Patrick Campbell said the call came in after 7 p.m.
Customers in the building
The fire was reported Wednesday evening after a Wilmington Police Department officer noticed smoke coming out of the building during his patrol.
“A WPD officer happened to be on scene and saw the smoke,” Campbell said.
Customers were still shopping in Everybody’s Supermarket when crews first arrived on the scene.
“Our first arriving agent reported they went in to clear the grocery store and reported there was almost no smoke in the grocery store while it was burning over their heads,” Campbell said.
As the fire continued, customers and employees in the Quails Quality Cuts barber shop also had to be evacuated.
“WPD and WFD had to evacuate people out of the structure as it was burning,” Campbell said. “They were unaware the building was on fire.”
Since the fire originated within the roof, Campbell said it is likely customers in the building’s businesses could not smell smoke and did not hear an alarm.
“It’s an older strip mall so its unlikely there was an alarm system,” Campbell said.
While fighting the fire, the county and city fire departments had to call CFPUA to adjust water pressure in the area after a fire hydrant broke.
“Ultimately the fire just had too much of a head start on us,” Campbell said. “It probably ran through the right-hand two-thirds of the building, it burned the roof right off.”
Though the roof is still intact in some businesses in the strip mall, Campbell said the water damage has effectively destroyed the building.
“The structure is pretty well destroyed by any account,” he said.
Flames were extinguished around midnight and are still smoldering today. Crews are forming a theory as to what caused the fire, but the case remains under investigation.
“It is under investigation at this time,” Campbell said. “They’re beginning to form a theory.”
An area with limited food options, the fire will likely have an impact on the surrounding Lake Forest neighborhood.
Johanna Ferebee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @j__ferebee on Twitter