Fire chief believes workers accidentally sparked fire at historic Lenoir plant

LENOIR, N.C. — Smoke was still drifting up from a Lenoir factory Monday morning, more than 18 hours after dozens of firefighters battled a massive fire.

The three-alarm fire at the old Broyhill Furniture Plant started around 5 p.m. Sunday on Virginia Street, according to fire officials.

The building has been there for more than 80 years and was turned into warehouses. The plant closed in 2005.

Hundreds of people worked at the plant over the years, which closed more than a decade ago.

Channel 9 was the first news station on the scene, where intense flames burned through the roof and could be seen shooting from the building.

Reporter Dave Faherty said he saw smoke coming from the building from about 10 miles away.

“At this point, the fire is contained within the building walls and it’s going to burn and smolder a few days,” Chief Ken Hair said Monday. “We’re making sure everything is contained. When we get visible fire, we put it out. It will take a few days.”

The fire chief believes the fire was an accident.

Hair said work was being done to tear a portion of the building down. He said preliminary reports suggest the fire was started by workers using torches to cut steel pipe and beams out of the roof. Hair believes some roof material may have caught fire and was unnoticed before the contractors left.

After the roof collapsed, firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to a portion of the building being converted to warehouses.  

Several roads were blocked while crews got the flames under control.

Colene Silver worked for Broyhill for more than 30 years.

“There (are a lot of people) hurting this morning like I am, because it’s just a part, like ever since I was a little girl, that’s all we (have) seen was Broyhill.”

Residents in the area told Channel 9 they heard a number of explosions.

“It’s hard. It’s like watching a family member go good-bye,” resident John Dugger said.

Officials said the Granite Falls Fire Department brought in drones to monitor the fire and identify hot spots. The Hudson, Gamewell, and Valmead fire departments also went on standby to respond to calls in Lenoir.

The fire chief said the fire was so large, 56 of the 60 firefighters in the town were brought in on Sunday night.

There was so much damage, firefighters are not able to go inside.

No injuries were reported.

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