Local News

Henderson plant destroyed second time by fire

Posted May 29
Updated May 30

— A fire ripped through a Henderson janitorial supply company's operations on Monday.

The fire was reported at ETC of Henderson Inc., at 601 Wakefield Ave., at about 10 a.m. About 75 people were working inside when the fire started, and all were able to escape unharmed, authorities said.

Multiple fire departments responded to battle the fire, and after several hours to bring the fire under control, they managed to prevent it from spreading beyond the ETC plant.

"The biggest challenge we're facing is we're getting the heat exhaustion. Our guys, we've been on scene since 10 o'clock this morning. Guys are starting to fatigue out," Henderson Fire Chief Steve Cordell said.

Several firefighters had to be treated for heat exhaustion. Most were checked out at the scene, but at least one was taken to a local hospital to be examined.

ETC makes mops, brooms, scrubbing and polishing pads, and the fire broke out in a section of the building used as a warehouse. There was no immediate word on the cause of the fire.

Troy Dunston, who lives near the plant, said the fire started slowly and then erupted.

"It was a little smoke, and the employees, they were just going around trying to account for each other," Dunston said. "In about five minutes' time, it spread. ... (into) the biggest fire around here I can remember."

"I just looked up, and there was nothing but black," resident Bonnie Ray said.

Black smoke from the fire could been seen up to 30 miles away.

"It's a sad day for Henderson," Mayor Eddie Ellington said. "I know the employees and I really hate it for them. It's a tremendous loss for us here in Henderson.

Nearby neighborhoods were asked to evacuate as a precaution.

Milky white runoff mixed with water flowed into local yards. Investigators said it was a non-toxic adhesive from the factory.

ETC also had a major fire in 2003. At that time, the owners decided to rebuild and kept all of the workers on the payroll.

Sprinklers were installed during the rebuilding process, but they weren't enough to stop Monday's fire from doing even more damage.

"These buildings were sprinkled, but the intensity of the fire overcame the sprinklers," Cordell said.

"It seems to be a little worse than it was last time," nearby resident Bill Braman said.

"We're looking at a total loss and a lot of damage and a lot of disrupted lives," resident Joseph Hale said. "It's a repeat. Here we go with another repeat. Why? We can't answer that question."

"When you're down and in trouble, everybody mans together," Ellington said. "Try to start planning for the future and hopefully they can rebuild.'


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  • David Davis May 29, 7:43 p.m.
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  • Jim Partridge May 29, 7:36 p.m.
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    Yes. Clearly the system was inadequate to contain the fire. It was likely designed for standard occupancy and not for hazardous materials or high pile and rack storage; which is a typical problem with sprinkler system design in North Carolina. Also, building owners/occupants have the responsibility to ensure they are using the building as designed. That said, ultimately, fire suppression (sprinkler) systems have one function and that is life safety. All of the employees made it out safely before the building was engulfed so it served it's purpose.

  • Len White May 29, 7:16 p.m.
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    “Sprinklers were installed during the rebuilding process, but they weren't enough to stop Monday's fire from doing even more damage.

    “’These buildings were sprinkled, but the intensity of the fire overcame the sprinklers,’ Cordell said.”

    Before they rebuild a second time, it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look at NFPA-13, “Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.”

  • David Davis May 29, 1:21 p.m.
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    I worked at ETC a few years ago, and you would not belive the all of the harmful chemicals that are used. I now the clean-up will cost a pretty penny.