SBI is investigating fire that destroyed Carrboro barn that was home to a preschool

A barn burns outside of Carrboro, North Carolina.
A barn burns outside of Carrboro, North Carolina.

Authorities are investigating a Wednesday morning fire that destroyed a barn that was reportedly being used as a preschool.

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the fire that began about 5 a.m. at 211 Old Fayetteville Road at Peppemint Spring Farm, according to WRAL. No one was injured, but two goats died in the blaze.

Local media outlets have reported that Marilyn Kille, who owns the farm, and Shelley Welch, the school's operator, have had a tense relationship.

Kille leased the barn to Welch for the purpose of housing The Wildflower Learning Community Preschool and Kindergarten, said Monty Hagler, a spokesman for Kille.

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Smoke from a fire at 211 Old Fayetteville Road rises in the twilight Wednesday morning. Courtesy of the Town of Carrboro

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood told WRAL, "Any time you have a fire of unknown origin, it's suspicious. But the history of the calls that we've had at this residence over the years heightens that suspicion just a little bit."

According to the news station, sheriff's deputies removed Kille from the school grounds in November "after she repeatedly went into the barn without permission." Welch wrote to parents of the school children last fall: "I formally requested that Marilyn extract herself from all things having to do with our school. This boundary has been upsetting to her, and her response has been to escalate her involvement behind the scenes.'"

In a statement released Wednesday, Kille said she awoke early Wednesday morning to the sound of neighbors banging on her door. The neighbors had already called first responders upon seeing the flames, she said.

"The loss of the Peppermint Spring Farm’s barn and the animals deeply saddens me," Kille said.

"The barn was a special place dedicated to the memory of my late husband and has served our family and community well for more than 20 years. ... I look forward to cooperating fully with Orange County and state authorities as they investigate the fire and am confident that they will quickly determine its cause and, if appropriate, the identities of those responsible," she said.

Carrboro and Orange County are conducting a joint investigation.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks