Harvest Outreach fire in Fort Pierce, arson suspected in $35,000 loss

FORT PIERCE — Arson is suspected in the burning of two tractor-trailer storage trucks containing an estimated $35,000 in donated equipment at the Harvest Food and Outreach Center on Monday night, according to the St. Lucie County Fire District.

The fire district and state Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the blaze that happened at 11:20 p.m. in a parking lot at the nonprofit center in the 2500 block of Orange Avenue, officials said Wednesday.

Center Executive Director Jennifer Trotter said the fire appears to have started when something was thrown against the truck sides. The flames got into flammable insulation in the truck walls.

The fire destroyed 120 classroom desk chairs that were to be used in the center's planned expansion of an education program for people coming off welfare, Trotter said. Also destroyed were clothing display racks.

The nonprofit center is a combination food bank, training center and thrift store that assists people in poverty. To be eligible for assistance, a single person has to work and be paid $19,000 annually or less.

Ongoing classes for 35 to 40 people, who were on welfare, aren't affected by the fire. And she said the fire didn't affect a truck containing food.

She estimated the loss at $35,000, of which insurers are covering $10,000. The trucks that burned were old and loaned by an owner who absorbing the loss, she said.

The center is the largest of a program headquartered in Vero Beach. The Fort Pierce center has been in operation since 2007 and this is the first fire there, Trotter said. About 500 people visit the center each day and it was closed at the time of the fire.

Anyone who wants to help may call the center at 772-468-8543.

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