New details in fire at former Winston-Salem school

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It is still early in the investigation, but firefighters are now saying homeless people could have started the fire that destroyed a nearly 100-year-old building in Winston-Salem.

Firefighters were dispatched to a burning building at 998 E. 11th St. at about 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to Winston-Salem Fire Department Lt. M.J. Cardwell.

The building is the former Brown Elementary School. The space is now vacant.

”When going through we saw some evidence of warming fires from homeless,” said Capt. Kelly Jernigan with the Winston-Salem Fire Department. “We can't say if that's what started it or not.”

Investigators say the fire started near an upstairs window. It took fifty firefighters around an hour to secure the scene Tuesday night. Issues with water supply and the building's age made it more difficult to fight the fire.

The Winston-Salem Housing Authority owns the building. They have plans to turn the property into affordable housing for seniors.

”From the ashes a phoenix will rise,” said Larry Woods, the CEO of the housing authority. “Our goal is to build a new senior building, Shiloh Towers. We are going to be working very closely with the community to do that and then we will move forward with New Hope Manner. Although this is not one of our better days, we believe this is a step forward.”

To secure the building and make sure no one is in the basement, the building will need to be torn down.

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