When Gateway Plaza Burned, December 1987

December 2
Log book excerpts added at bottom of posting.

November 25
Development is comin’ to the Capital Boulevard corridor inside the Beltline. Or, perhaps, more development. The Gateway Plaza shopping center, built in 1968, is planned for Big Things.

Here are a couple news stories on same, from the Triangle Business Journal (2016) and News & Observer (2018). And, as of this month, demolition of the parking lot is underway.

But did you know that the shopping center once burned, in one of the Raleigh’s few strip mall fires?


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Fire Through The Roof 

December 3, 1987. Dispatched about 12:10 a.m. Crews from two stations responded, reported that day’s Raleigh Times. Presuming Engine 7, Engine 11, and  Truck 11, by that time an aerial ladder company. (The city’s fourth, recently activated.) Fire through the roof on arrival.

Presuming that a second alarm was called. From news photos, a second aerial company was there, the 1977 Mack/Baker Aerialscope. (Mike’s notes say Truck 8 was operating same by December 1987. Seems more likely it was running as Truck 1. Or, perhaps, a third ladder was special-called to the scene. Need to consult the old log books.)

Thirty-five firefighters “worked through the night”, said District Chief Jonny Sandy. One firefighter was injured, Captain Wade Boyette, when “spots of hot tar” from melted roofing materials  fell onto his hands. Several other firefighters were also struck by falling tar, but were not injured.


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Several Shops and Businesses Damaged

Six shops and businesses were gutted by the blaze: Personnel Pool Temporary Services, J. R. Lee Electric Company, a shoe shop, a dentist office, a cosmetics office (Avon), and an accountant’s office. Another was heavily damaged, Radio Reading Services, a broadcast service that read the newspaper to some 500 sight-impaired listeners.

Others suffered smoke damage: Eckerd’s drug store, Colorcraft photo processing, the African Supermarket and Gift Shop, and the Gateway restaurant. (Need to find a phone book from the era, and add the listings here.)

The center section of the building’s roof caved in, though the businesses located at either end of the “L”-shaped building were the ones that “escaped with smoke damage.”

Fire officials received reports that two doors were open at the back of the shopping center, when firefighters arrived. They would investigate whether the businesses had been broken into, but Chief Sandy sold reports he didn’t see any evidence of a break-in, looting, or arson. Though he noted “we concentrated all our efforts on extinguishing the fire.”


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No Evidence of Arson

The investigation into the fire cause was conducted by a team led by Fire Captain Dudley L. Gill. He estimated at least $250,000 of structure damage had been suffered. The property was owned by Meredith College, which received the site as a donation several years ago by Raleigh developer Seby Jones, who built the shopping center.

The following day, the Raleigh Times reported that investigators had ruled out arson. The fire apparently started in the ceiling, and was most likely electrical in cause. The City-County Bureau of Investigator also spent the day looking into the fire, and found no evidence of any break-in before the fire.

Recent Property History

From Wake County real estate records, recent deed transfers:

  • 1982, Dec 23, prior – Deed held by Seby and Christina Jones.
  • 1982, Dec 23 – Deed to Meredith College
  • 1999, Feb 16 – Deed to Meredith College
  • 2004, Aug 20 – Deed to Murray Gateway LLC
  • 2016, May 16 – Deed to Elixir Retail Partners LLC

The site has 6.77 acres and three one-story buildings totaling about 76,000 square-feet. 

Sources

  • News & Observer, December 4, 1987
  • Raleigh Times, December 3, 1987
  • Raleigh Times, December 4, 1987

Log Book Entries

12/3 Car 51 (none) Fire Crabtree Blvd. Code 3.
12/3 R7 0007 R-7 to 2400 Crabtree Blvd. (structure fire).
R-7 assisted eng. co. at fire.
12/3 Sta 11 0007 Eng and Trk 11 went to Gateway Plaza to a building fire. Tic. No. 8627. Trk 11 set up and ladder pipe used. Eng 11 used 400’ of 2 ½” and 3” hose. Personnel from Sta 15 relieved Eng 11 and we got 10-8 as Eng 11 at 0406. Eng 11 and all equipment was left at fire scene.
12/3 Sta 7 0007 Eng 7 responded to 2400 blk of Crabtree Blvd. Gate-Way Plaza Shopping Center, found fire coming through roof. Laid lines from fire to hydrant, corner of Timber Dr. & Crabtree Blvd. Proceeded to extinguish fire at rear of shopping center. Eng 11 & Truck responded to front of shopping [center]. Eng 7 called in for a second alarm to the fire. Proceeded to fight fire. 9 + 13 + T12 + R6 was sent on second alarm. Eng 7 was relieved by Eng 6. We drove Engine 6 back to station & left Engine 7 at fire. Rear door was open.
12/3 Sta 7 0010 Eng 7 10-23.
12/3 Sta 1 0013 Eng 13 & Truck #1 responded to Gateway Plaza – Structure fire – Second alarm. Truck #1 left one 28’ extension ladder at fire scene.
12/3 Sta 9 0013 Eng 9 to Gateway Plaza N. Blvd. structure fire 2nd. alarm.
12/3 Sta 9 0018 Eng 9 10-23 working fire.
12/3 R6 0022 R-6 to Gateway Plaza 10-70. Used air packs and crowbar.
12/3 Sta 12 0105 T-12 respond to North Blvd & Crabtree to relieve firemen that was already on the scene. Use three Scott air pack.
12/3 Car 53 0115 Car 53 filling in at Station #1.
12/3 R6 0335 R-6 10-8.
12/3 Sta 1 0400 Eng #1 responded to Gateway Plaza.
12/3 Sta 11 0406 Eng 11 10-8
12/3 Sta 15 0410 Eng 15 & Trk 15 to 2400 Crabtree Blvd. Eng 15 & Trk 15 relieved E-11 & E-7, T-11.
12/3 Sta 6 0410 Engine Six responded to 2400 Crabtree Blvd.
12/3 Sta 6 0418 Engine Six 10-23. Working fire.
12/3 Sta 11 0426 Trk 15 relieved Trk 11 and Trk 11 got 10-8.
One 8’ pike pole left at scene. One axe handle broken at the fire.
12/3 Sta 12 0433 T-12 10-8
12/3 Sta 1 0440 Truck #1 10-8
12/3 Sta 7 0450 Eng 7 10-8.
12/3 R7 0457 R-7 10-08.
12/3 Sta 7 0503 Eng 7 back in station.
12/3 Sta 9 0667 Eng 9 10-8.
12/3 Sta 6 0728 Engine Six 10-8.
12/3 Sta 15 0746 Eng 15 10-8.
12/3 Sta 15 0750 C shift Tr.15 crew relieving A shift.
12/3 Car 53 0800 Car 53 responded for 51 & 53.
Have two men Marshburn & Kimbell working 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. fire scene.
12/3 Sta 7 0800 C shift on duty. G. R. Bagwell on vac. All other personnel went to fire scene (2400 Crabtree).
12/3 Car 52 0915 Chief Sandy relieved from C52 due to fire.
12/3 Sta 11 0930 E-11 to Station 7 for 38 gal fuel. Stopped by fire scene and got 14’ roof ladder.
12/3 Sta 9 1000 D. Chief Beasley picked up hose washer.
12/3 Sta 11 1010 T-11 to Station 2 to get fuel and gas.
12/3 Sta 11 1100 T-11 back in station.
12/3 Sta 11 1230 T-11 & E-11 to Gateway Plaza to stand by.
12/3 Sta 15 1239 Tr. 15 10-8.
12/3 Sta 11 1400 T-11 back in station.
12/3 Sta 9 1800 Chief Hunnicutt returned 1 air-pack Eng 9.
12/3 Sta 7 1830 Eng 7 was returned to Sta 7 and reloaded.
12/3 Sta 11 1900 E-11 back in station.
12/3 Car 52 1920 T12 manned and sent to Gateway Shopping Center fire scene to stand by 1920-2400
12/3 Sta 15 2345 Jay Faison to Crabtree Blvd. fire.
12/4 Car 52 0001 T12 returned to #12. Light trailer remained at fire scene.
12/4 Sta 6 0315 W. R. Marshburn detailed to fire watch at Gateway Plaza fire scene until 0800.
12/4 Sta 15 0415 Jay Faison back.
12/4 Sta 7 0800 C Patterson to 2400 Crabtree Blvd, to stand-by scene of fire.
12/4 Sta 7 0900 Eng 7 to 2400 Crabtree Blvd.
12/4 Sta 7 1155 Eng 7 back to Station 7
12/4 Sta 7 1220 Eng 7 10-8 with Eng 11 – left Eng 7 at fire scene.
12/4 R7 1602 R-7 to 2400 Crabtree Blvd. 10-70 alarm.
12/4 Sta 11 1602 Engine 11, T11 was dispatched to Gateway Plaza Shopping Center along with Engine 7. Was 10-19 by Engine 7 on arrival.
12/4 Sta 7 1602 Eng 7 responded to 2400 Crabtree Blvd. Checked out building. Nothing found.
12/4 Sta 7 1604 Eng 7 10-12.
12/4 Sta 11 1606 Engine 11 Truck 11 10-8.
12/4 R7 1609 R-7 10-8 10-9 by Eng. 7.
12/4 Sta 7 1627 Eng 7 10-8.
12/4 Sta 7 1631 Eng 7 back in station.
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