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Cause of Riverview Grocery Fire Left Undetermined, Death by CO Inhalation

The fire at Riverview Grocery and Apartments smoldering days after it the building went down in flames. Photo by B. Dudley Carter

By Jesse Wood

Watauga County Fire Marshal Steve Sudderth said that investigators aren’t able to pinpoint the cause of the Riverview Grocery and Apartments fire.

On the morning of March 8, the structure burned down and was a total loss. One of the residents, Shane Scarborough, who also managed the Riverview Grocery and gas station, was unable to escape. The cause of death on his death certificate is carbon monoxide inhalation.

As for the cause of the fire, Sudderth said investigators couldn’t rule out several factors and therefore left the cause of fire as undetermined.

Sudderth noted that the fire started in the area of the outdoor wood boiler.

He noted that operator error – such as leaving the firebox door open – couldn’t be ruled out. Sudderth also mentioned that people who serviced the wood-burning boiler smoked and were known to toss cigarettes in that area.

He said that mechanical failure – such inefficient seals with the asbestos rope around the cleanout door – couldn’t be ruled out. He also said that the flue system could have failed.

“All of those things couldn’t be ruled out, therefore we left it undetermined,” Sudderth said.

The other residents of the apartments were left homeless after the building burned down, and an online fundraising campaign for David Reiger, Roman Presnell, Jim Rasmussen and David Maine was created to help them pick up the pieces.

Click here to donate to the campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/o9z1hk.