Firefighter injured battling massive building fire in Kannapolis

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A firefighter was injured Thursday morning while battling a large building fire in Kannapolis.

Officials said the fire broke out around 9 a.m. at a strip mall on South Main Street across from the Whataburger.

According to officials, firefighter Steven Tilley was working in the back of the building when the ceiling partially collapsed on him. He was taken to a hospital, but is expected to be OK.

There are about five businesses located inside the shopping center, and three were damaged by smoke and water.

Crews told Channel 9 that none of the businesses were open at the time of the fire, so no one else was hurt.

The building on the end of the strip mall is an appliance repair shop and that's where investigators believe the fire started. The shop was being used for storage and has been deemed a total loss.

Officials said Angie's Fashions, a clothing store next door to the repair shop, sustained significant damage and a third business, the Main Street Business Center, has smoke damage.

South Main Street was shut down for hours as dozens of firefighters worked to contain the four-alarm fire. The road reopened around 3:15 p.m.

Firefighters told Eyewitness News reporter Glenn Counts they worked in defense posture, which means no one could go inside the building to fight the fire, so they had to work from the outside.

Hours after the fire was contained, firefighters said they are still trying to extinguish a few hot spots.

Initially, bystanders said they saw a few puffs of smoke and then the fire erupted with a vengeance.

"I was pulling up going this way and I heard this boom and it sounded like shotguns, like, "Pow pow pow pow,'" said witness Donna Cauble.

Driver David Waeygard watched the flames rip through the building and recorded the fire on his cellphone.

"It was very intense. I was across the street with my automobile. I had to back up another 100 feet, it was so hot," said Waeygard.

Large plumes of smoke were spotted from Chopper 9 Skyzoom as we approached the scene.

The heat was certainly a factor, but firefighters said it could take some time for them to determine the cause of the blaze.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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