A fire early Friday morning at a mosque under construction in Cary was an accident, officials said after a preliminary investigation.
Cary Fire Department investigators said Friday evening that they traced the apparent cause of the fire to an electrical source on the site. The fire started on the bottom floor of the building, they said.
Cary Fire Chief Mike Cooper announced the preliminary findings.
“We take all fire investigations seriously and want to acknowledge the community’s concern with this occurring at a place of worship,” Cooper said. “We want to assure the community that there is no evidence to suggest the fire was intentionally set.”
Cary fire investigators were aided by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Cooper said all the agencies agreed with the preliminary findings. The investigation is ongoing, he said.
A national Muslim group had asked investigators to look into whether the fire was intentionally set.
No one was hurt in the fire.
Members stopped by throughout the day to see what they could.
Omar Baloch, a local attorney, said he wanted to see how badly the mosque was damaged. “It’s concerning,” he said. “I’m hoping it was electrical but I fear it’s not. When you hear about these incidents, it’s concerning.”
Outside the mosque Friday afternoon, Ameer Shakil Ahmed of the Islamic Association of Cary said members are disappointed.
“It was just about complete,” he said. “We got a call this morning there was smoke coming out of the building. I don’t know how much damage was done.”
The mosque, which will be called the Islamic Center of Cary, has been under construction since 2008, Ahmed said. It’s being built with money collected from the members because Islamic tradition forbids taking out loans with interest. They’re spending about $4 million to construct the center.
The fire was contained to the bottom floor that was to be a banquet hall. Ahmed said he had just picked the paint color for the walls Thursday as workers were winding down their shift. They were in the final stages of finishing the banquet hall which they were hoping to begin using in a couple of weeks, he said. The upper floors were going to be completed in several months.
“Our goal was to move in next summer, but now I don’t know,” Ahmed said.
Cooper said investigators kept leaders of the center apprised of their findings through the day.
“I would like to thank the members of the Islamic Association for their cooperation and assistance today,” Cooper said. “We worked with them today. We’ve heard all their concerns. And we have walked them through every step of the investigation.”