Owner says fire that destroyed business was arson

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After four hours of battling the flames crews finally have extinguished a fire at a Wilmington business. Now a joint task force made up of the Wilmington Fire Department, New Hanover County Fire Rscue and the ATF is trying to figure out what started the fire.

Around 2:15 p.m. Shannon Stuart, the owner of Plum Fancy, was eating pizza with her employees when they started to smell smoke.

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“Two guys came in and told us the building was on fire and we ran outside, and I didn’t see any flames to this side, but I ran back that way and the side was on fire,” Stuart said.

Across the street employees at Blue Water Motorsports went into high gear by calling 911 and making sure their neighbors were alright, but they say they knew immediately this was not like any fire they had seen before.

“It was really odd,” Kenneth Manypenny said. “When the gentleman ran out, he just disappeared, and I don’t know where he went. I was just really shocked that he left the two old ladies in there by themselves, and they were just walking in and out. It was really weird. They were really calm.”

Dorothy Noe, the owner of Dorothy’s Ruffled Originals, says she was in shock watching the business she had spent 35 years building being taken away.

“It’s unreal how fast it spread,” Noe said.

This is not the first time the business has had to battle a blaze. Neighbors say this is the second fire at the business in the past month, and that Noe was supposed to vacate the building by the end of April.

Noe admits the fire is suspicious.

“It seems kind of strange that we have a little closet there, and you walk outside and there is a fire in that area, but it is an old building and there are some old wires that aren’t up to par and things like that,” Noe said.

WFD Battalion Chief Randy Burton says that the fire caused hundreds of thousands in damage.

At this point investigators have not ruled out any possible causes.