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Chapel Hill Fire Department responds to explosion on McCorkle Place

Police investigate an explosion at the Davie Poplar tree in McCorkle Place on Thursday afternoon.

Police investigate an explosion at the Davie Poplar tree in McCorkle Place on Thursday afternoon.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Farah Heikal's name. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

Update, Nov. 3, 11:38 a.m.:

UNC Police say the suspect is 24-year-old Joshua Daniel Edwards. No charges have been filed, and there is no official arrest report.

According to the police report, the potential charge is arson, but other charges may be filed. 

Update, 1:05 a.m.:

Dan Reichart, a UNC professor of physics and astronomy, has confirmed that he suffered first and second-degree burns to his face and arms while trying to stamp out a fire at McCorkle place on Thursday afternoon. 

Reichart said he was not aware of the presence of a pipe bomb when he attempted to extinguish the fire. 

"The fire had gotten big, but not so big that I didn't think I could kick it out," Reichart said in an email. 

Reichart said he is being taken care of at UNC Hospital, and that he hopes he'll be back to campus sometime next week. 

Update, 5:25 p.m.: Orange County Emergency Services has sent out an emergency alert in response to a suspicious vehicle parked on West Weaver Street.

Locations evacuated include North Greensboro and Shelton Streets, West Weaver and West Main Streets, Jones Ferry and West Main, South Greensboro and Roberson and East Main and Roberson Streets, according to Carrboro Police Chief Chris Atack. 

The Carrboro Police Department tweeted that an emergency alert has been sent out to those within a police perimeter in Carrboro.

"Due to a suspicious vehicle Carrboro Police are evacuating a one-quarter mile area around West Weaver Street and Lindsey Street in Carrboro," OCEmergency Services said in a tweet. 


The Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to an explosion on McCorkle Place Thursday afternoon after 3 p.m. The Daily Tar Heel is working to get more official information and has reporters on the scene. 

First-year Taryn Valentino saw a white male disrobing while running toward the Davie Poplar tree in McCorkle Place. She said he was yelling about Satan and the tree. 

Valentino later heard a loud explosion and heard the man yelling about how he hoped the tree burned down. Quickly after the explosion, she said the police arrived and the man attempted to run away. 

Farah Heikal saw the man leave a guitar and backpack by the tree that she believes was holding the explosive. Heikal said she saw a man attempt to put out the fire while it was small but ended up receiving burns as the fire grew. 

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"It was a guitar and a backpack. I'm guessing he left something that would explode in his backpack and when it went off, he just ran," she said. 

Will Freeman heard the man yelling about the Davie Poplar.  

“I was biking up as he was going the other way, and he starts yelling ‘The tree of knowledge is on fire,'"  Freeman said. 

He said people around him were worried about the tree catching fire quickly because of its age. Freeman said he thinks the man used a supplementary starter in the guitar or backpack. Freeman also witnessed the man attempting to put out the fire get burned by the explosion.

“It burned really fast, I think there must have been alcohol or lighter fluid or something like that because that stuff just burns really fast. He had first and second degree burns but it wasn’t too bad, and everyone started gathering water to cool him off," Freeman said.

Reports are saying that one person suffered burns from the explosion. 

Suspect is in custody. Cameron Avenue is closed until future notice.

This story is breaking. Check back for details. 

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