BURKE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Untold numbers of keepsakes, heirlooms, furniture, household items and even a car went up in flames in Valdese Wednesday morning when a storage unit complex caught fire.
Investigators say it was an accident, but added that they are still trying to pinpoint the cause. They do know a crew was preparing to work on the pavement inside the Bingham Storage complex when a piece of equipment they were using emitted some sparks.
Whatever the cause, the damage was extensive. Forty-six units were gutted by the flames or sustained heavy water and smoke damage.
Other storage units in buildings a few feet away may also have suffered smoke damage.
"I just hope everyone will pray for those who had things stored here," said the owner of the buildings, Bruce Bingham.
One woman, who did not want to be named, watched the fire with tears in her eyes.
"We had two units there," she said. One unit was loaded with tools, she said, and the other with family items including dolls made by her now deceased mother. "Things that can never be replaced."
Officials say that unless the individual renters had insurance on the items being stored, there was no coverage for them. They are advising those affected to check with their homeowner's policies, if they have one.
The fire burned for a couple of hours and forced the closing of Highway 70 on the west side of Valdese.
Fire Chief Charlie Watts said there were no firewalls between units and, because of that, the flames spread quickly from one unit to another. With each one locked securely, it was was difficult to get inside them to attack the flames.
They also had to be careful because they didn't know what was in each unit.
The fire was out by mid-afternoon. No one was hurt.
Damage estimates are difficult to make, they said, without knowing all the items inside. Investigators are still working on that.