Fire spreads through multiple downtown Statesville buildings

Dozens of fire crews worked to put out the widespread fire.
The fire broke out on West Broad Street in downtown Statesville around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. This is the block around Center and Water Streets.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 4:44 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2023 at 12:52 PM EDT
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STATESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) – A fire engulfed multiple buildings in downtown Statesville, destroying local businesses and leading to a massive firefighter response.

“This is what we call our dreaded fire. We talk about in the firehouse for years, hope it never happens, we’ve dreaded it. We’ve had a few small ones,” said Statesville Fire Department Deputy Chief Glenn Kurfees.

The fire broke out on West Broad Street in downtown Statesville around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. This is the block around Center and Water Streets. It started in or near Theatre Statesville, according to fire officials.

“Unfortunately, our rehearsal studio at 109 W Broad Street was one of the buildings impacted by the fire,” Theatre Statesville posted on social media. “Our building is severely damaged and the fire department is still battling the flames. We are grateful that no one was injured, and we thank the many emergency responders for working tirelessly towards putting out the fire. Our thoughts are with the other business owners who were also impacted by this.”

Heavy damage was reported at GG’s Gift Shop. No one was inside at the time and no injuries were reported, according to the City of Statesville.

“It has no roof. There’s lots of water damage of course. I might see for temporary if we can find another building downtown,” said GG’s owner Gloria Hager. “We’ve been here 56 years, not in this building, but in Statesville. Our clients are our friends and sort of extended family. I’ve said this a million times but there’s no place like Statesville because if you could have just been here all morning and see the people coming by - the hugs, the texts, the Facebook messages, customers crying. I love this community, but it makes me love it even more because of the people we have here.”

“It’s just horrible. It reminds me of fires in the past. I’m sure everybody is thankful that there was no loss of life,” said Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh. “There’s a lot of loss of vitality. GG’s is an institution in Statesville. Owner Gloria Hager, my heart goes out to her and her staff. They’ve worked so hard to make that a focal point of our downtown and it’s certainly a focal point in a different way today.”

Officials said the fire was actively burning in the roof of the building, making it harder for crews to fight. A number of water hoses were aimed high in the air to get water on the flames.

“The challenge is that when you get into a building in a downtown area this size, you got one building and you’ve got to worry about the areas they can spread from. These buildings are old, they’ve been modified, there’s holes in the walls,” Kurfees added. “Luckily the firewall on that end did kind of keep it in check for us.”

The fire eventually spread to other nearby buildings, destroying multiple downtown businesses.

Dozens of crews were on the scene working to put out the fire, at one point totaling more than 100 firefighters. By 5:30 a.m., the fire was under control, city officials said.

This drone photo provided by Ben Watts shows fire damage to three buildings in downtown...
This drone photo provided by Ben Watts shows fire damage to three buildings in downtown Statesville.(Ben Watts)

“We’ll be here for a while, probably throughout the rest of the day. There’s a lot of cleanup efforts and there’s going to be some streets closed down because of all this,” Kurfees said.

The fire started around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday in the building that houses GG's Gift Shop.

A woman said she woke up, smelled smoke and then called 911 before coming out to the downtown area, calling it a shocking scene.

“There’s a lot of people taking a lot of losses and are going to wake up to some big surprises this morning,” resident David Cole, who witnessed the fire, said.

American Renaissance, a nearby elementary school, will not be having class on Tuesday.

“The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by various agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Office of the State Fire Marshal (NCOSFM), and the Statesville Fire Marshal. Given the extent of the damage and the size of the buildings, the investigation is expected to be lengthy, and the public is advised to avoid the area if possible,” according to a press release from the City of Statesville.

A GoFundMe was created to benefit Theatre Statesville and its efforts to repair the space.

“We’ll build back, we’ll just have to see what’s involved,” Hager said. “We’ve got to be ready for Christmas. Statesville needs us.”

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The fire started in the building that houses GG's Gift Shop.