Emergency crews from four counties responded to a huge fire that burned for hours at a plant in Caldwell County Friday. As of Saturday morning, the building was still smoldering and neighbors said they could see smoke and hear explosions from inside the warehouse.
The fire broke out around 7:15 p.m. at the Old Shuford Mill on Falls Avenue in Granite Falls Friday, across from the Granite Falls Police Department. Nearby neighborhoods and businesses were evacuated due to the heat from the fire.
The evacuation was lifted and residents were allowed to go back to their homes just before 11 p.m. The fire was fully contained around 1 a.m. Saturday.
Photos and videos from the scene showed heavy smoke and flames coming from the large building. The smoke could be seen from miles away.
As of Saturday, fire crews said the building was still too dangerous to enter so firefighters decided to let the plant burn itself out.
Granite Falls is near Hickory and about 70 minutes northwest of Charlotte.
Fire officials said it will take nearly a week before the interior will be cool enough to before they are able to begin the investigation into what caused the fire.
“We would like to warn residents in the area that conditions will remain smoky until the interior burns itself out,” a spokesperson with Caldwell County said Saturday.
Firefighters from all 16 stations in Caldwell County, as well as stations from Catawba, Alexander, Wilkes and Burke counties responded to the blaze.
Officials said their main priority was keeping those firefighters safe. Teams were working in shifts, rotating about every 15 minutes so the firefighters could get away from the heat, get checked out, and get hydrated.
A spokesperson with the town of Granite Falls said one of the responders was taken to a nearby hospital due to heat exhaustion, but was later released.
“It’s very heartbreaking and sad,” said bystander Anessa Lucas. “There’s so many memories and homes and people that live there and businesses. So many people have lost a lot.”
The factory in the Shuford Mills building shut down years ago, but several small businesses were still using the building. The warehouse was also being used as a storage rental business.
Firefighters were able to save five buildings that surrounded the warehouse.
“I just feel sorry for everybody that lost everything,” said neighbor Ronnie Bumgarner.
WBTV is a news partner of The Charlotte Observer.