Crews from five counties fought an early morning fire Wednesday at the former Clinchfield mill in Marion. One firefighter suffered minor injuries when a wall collapsed.
Shortly after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, emergency agencies responded to the Chamad Warehouse on Virginia Road after receiving reports of a fully involved structure fire.
According to Emergency Services Director William Kehler, no one was inside the building at the time of the blaze.
“The objective now is to keep this fire contained to about, we’re estimating, 150,000 square feet,” Kehler said around 10 a.m. Wednesday. “It is the north side of the plant that has been affected. We have a perimeter set up around the affected warehouse and they’re maintaining water flow onto the fire to keep it from spreading to other areas. “
Four additional counties (Burke, Buncombe, Mitchell and Rutherford) assisted McDowell agencies and provided personnel to fight the blaze, said Kehler. Representatives from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) monitored air on site, with contact made with the NC DEQ, Water Quality due to the amount of runoff.
Kehler confirmed that one firefighter was injured.
Shortly after arrival, the southern wall of the building collapsed, striking a firefighter and causing a minor injury. The firefighter was evaluated at Mission Hospital McDowell and later discharged.
“We’re very fortunate that no serious injuries have occurred,” said Kehler. “Our objective today is to ensure the safety of all the emergency personnel on our team. We’re expecting very high temperatures, a heat index approaching 100. We have paramedics on site to conduct rehab operations to monitor vital signs and provide water and snacks to personnel. American Red Cross is here as well.”
By 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, emergency personnel would remain on the scene through the night, addressing any hot spots and monitoring for any change in conditions. Duke Energy would also work with fire officials to evaluate power reconnections for areas surrounding the warehouse.
Virginia Road was closed on Wednesday during the firefighting effort, with traffic detours taking place in and around the area.
Angel Sherlin, who witnessed the fire and shot a 10 second video of the blaze around 1 a.m., said she had been assisting her mother at her residence on Tunnel Road.
“We heard nothing but at about 12 or so we smelled an electrical smell, and we thought one of the appliances had malfunctioned,” said Sherlin via email. “There was thick smoke outside. We honestly thought a trailer at the end of the road was on fire from how bright and close it was.”
When asked what she thought had probably started the blaze, Sherlin remained skeptical about natural causes.
“My guess is not lightning because ... well science,” said Sherlin. “Huge water tower and fences everywhere, fire in some of early drone pics is in the middle of the building. Lightning seems far-fetched to me but I’m not a licensed investigator. Hearing the roof collapse was scary as I went to Hill Street to get a different view. The magnitude was just awesome. And hearing whatever barrels of chemicals were left explode and watching the mushroom cloud – videos do not do it justice.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Kehler.
Additional photos and videos of the fire can be found at www.mcdowellnews.com.