Firefighters from five counties battle huge fire in Granite Fall - | WBTV Charlotte

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Firefighters from five counties battle huge fire in Granite Falls

(Courtesy The Caldwell Journal) (Courtesy The Caldwell Journal)
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

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, right across the street 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 morning. 

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.

MOBILE USERS: CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE FIRE

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.

The Granite Falls Recreation Center, the Granite Falls Drug Center, and town offices in Granite Falls were opened to serve as cooling centers and rehab centers for firefighters.

The American Red Cross also set up additional rehab centers for firefighters. Officials said anyone who would like to donate bottled water or Gatorade for the firefighters could bring it to the Granite Falls Police Department.

"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 at least five small businesses were still using the building. There were also 250 rented storage units in the plant, county officials said. Officials did not say how much the damage would cost. 

There were three apartments inside the warehouse, which were all destroyed, according to a spokesperson with Caldwell County. 

Firefighters were able to save five buildings that surrounded the warehouse. 

"I just feel sorry for everybody that lost everything. That was a storage unit. People had cars in there, boats in there and they've lost everything," said neighbor Ronnie Bumgarner.

It is not clear how the fire may have started. No one was inside the building when it caught fire. No injuries were reported.

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. Jerry Church, who is the town manager of Granite Falls, released this statement Saturday morning:

"The Town of Granite Falls would like to thank all of emergency responders to the incident and also thanks the volunteers who provided drinks, food, and supplies for the responders."

Fire officials said it will take nearly a week for the interior of the plant to cool down enough before investigators 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. 

Ben Arrowood captured 30 minutes of the fire using a drone. 

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