Progress staff reports

The vacant Trinity Church Furniture manufacturing warehouse, across from Twin Oaks Nursing Home, was completely destroyed in a Wednesday morning fire.

Jacksonville Fire Department was alerted at 10:05 a.m., and crews from Jacksonville, New Summerfield, North Cherokee, Bullard and Earles Chapel fire departments were on scene shortly.

Oncor trucks were summoned to the scene to turn off the gas supply. Fire department officials said a 2-inch gas line ran behind the building.

The fire spread beyond the main structure. Fire department officials reported several vacant structures in the area were a total loss. They also reported the fire continued to spread at 10:42 a.m., when a small structure on the south side of the main fire was reportedly beginning to burn.

Also, the fire was spreading into the surrounding wooded area toward nearby residences.

Grass fire trucks and an air trailer were also called to the scene.

Crews were still on scene battling the fire at 2:18 p.m.

Sam Grimes, owner of the building, was on the scene early and said he recently purchased it in a bankruptcy auction, but would not reveal how much he paid for the vacant warehouse. He said the building was insured but did not know for how much.

An on-site witness said he saw a black male with a pit bull running north on Bolton Street, away from the fire, shortly before 10 a.m. The witness asked to remain anonymous because he had not yet given a statement to police on scene.

Isaac Battle, the man’s neighbor, elaborated on the witness’s sighting.

“He saw a black guy come out of those woods (near North Bolton),” Battle said. “And he wasn’t moving slow when he came out of there. He had enough time to start a fire and get it to a blaze like that. It didn’t hesitate once it started.”

Battle said he has lived nearby on Bolton Street for 25-30 years.

Tim White, a network administrator for Jacksonville Independent School District, said he saw the fire after it broke out and went to see it from his next-door workplace.

Clay Carter, a food services employee for JISD, said he walked out to see the fire and immediately thought, “Oh my gosh.”

“I thank the Lord the fire department was there,” Carter said.

Linda White, a nursing student at Jacksonville College, said the pillar of smoke rising from the building was similar to a dark tornado.

“I saw it at the school,” she said. “It was huge. By the time we got here, the fire department and EMS were here.”

Progress reporters Nathan Straus, Jay Neal and Lauren LaFleur contributed to this story.

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