CFD: 15 workers rescued, 2 unaccounted for in Charlotte construction site fire

Medic said one person had serious injuries.
Firefighters were called to a massive fire at an unfinished apartment complex on Thursday morning.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 9:36 AM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 2:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Firefighters rescued 15 workers while two remain unaccounted for after a massive fire broke out at a south Charlotte construction site Thursday morning, officials said.

According to Charlotte Fire, firefighters were called to Liberty Row Drive to battle the fire. That is in the area of SouthPark Mall.

Aerial footage of the large fire in SouthPark on Thursday morning

Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said over 90 firefighters responded after several calls began coming in at 9 a.m. Ultimately, five alarms were called.

Johnson said one of those rescued was a crane operator who had minor injuries. He added the construction foreman confirmed the two unaccounted-for workers.

Alex Eyssen, Mill Creek’s Senior Management Director - Carolinas, the company building the apartments that caught fire issued a statement to WBTV.

“As was recently confirmed by the Charlotte Fire Department, two people working onsite are currently unaccounted for and several were rescued with some being transported to the hospital. We are deeply concerned for their wellbeing and will continue to follow the direction of the first responders on site to address the situation. Our thoughts are with the missing and injured individuals, and their loved ones at this time.

We are extremely grateful for the quick and thorough response of the first responders with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Charlotte Fire Department who risked their lives for others and to contain the fire as quickly as possible. Their response was nothing short of heroic, and we thank them for all that they do every day. We are also thankful for the assistance of City Councilmember Tariq Bokhari,” Eyssen said.

Paramedics remained on the scene long after their initial response, and continued to provide support to firefighters. Per Charlotte Fire, the reunification site was the police sky tower near Nordstrom’s at 4400 Sharon Road.

According to the chief, it was a fast-moving fire that climbed to temperatures well over 2,000 degrees.

“The fire moved very rapidly,” Johnson said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said roads are closed in the 7700 block of Liberty Row Drive due to fire crews on the scene.

Drivers should avoid the SouthPark area and seek alternate routes. CMPD is asking that drivers avoid Liberty Row Drive, Assembly Street and Barclay Downs Drive until further notice. Park South Drive and Fairview Road have reopened.


As a precautionary measure, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said all students and staff stayed inside with doors and windows closed to minimize exposure to smoke. The district also stated that road closures impacted transportation routes home. A full list of impacted bus routes and schools can be found here.

Johnson said there were a number of nearby rooftop fires due to the embers and the size and volume of the construction site fire.

He added that a number of investigators will determine the cause of the fire.

Officials at the scene said crews will remain at the site overnight as firefighters continue to spray down hotspots. They have not yet entered the building as of Thursday evening because temperatures were too hot.

NC Occupation Safety and Health (OSHA) has begun an investigation. Charlotte firefighters at the scene said a number of federal agencies are also on standby to assist with the investigation.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are roughly 4,300 fires per year at structure construction sites and 76 percent of those involve residential structures like apartment complexes.

National building code allows for up to five floors of residential buildings to be constructed using fire retardant wood. However, even treated wood product as a substantially lower fire rating than concrete or most other construction material.

A building’s fire ratings and protections do not need to be in place until the building receives its certificate of occupancy.

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