Residents react after Raleigh youth center concession stand catches fire

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Raleigh fire investigators are on scene after a concession stand caught fire at Wilders Grove Youth Center on Wednesday.

The concession stand, kitchen, and bathroom suffered extensive damage.

Video taken by a CBS 17 viewer around 5:45 p.m. shows flames shooting from the roof of the building.

“My heart is broken. We worked really hard, especially with the concession stand. This year we really tried to get it up and going,” said Katrina Smith.

Smith’s young son is about to start his third season of Pop Warner football at Wilders Grove.

The youth center has been in Raleigh since 1950, when it started with one building. Now it includes fields for youth football, baseball, and soccer.

“It’s awesome, it gives them something to do. Takes them off the street.  It builds character, having mentors,” Smith said.

It’s not only current families that feel the center’s impact. Some of the firefighters fighting the blaze Wednesday have their own history with the Grove.

“Myself and several of the firemen that are here, a lot of us played ball here when we were younger,” said Chief David Whitley with the Raleigh Fire Department. “In the 80’s this was a busy park. We had baseball here, they had football.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but fire officials say no one was inside and that the power was off. However, renovations were ongoing.

Wilders Grove organizers say vandalism has been a problem at the park in the past. With the season beginning in August, Smith says they’ll have to play on without the newly renovated concession stand and extra bathrooms.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see this, but I know we will overcome it,” she said.

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