Local News

Employees Affected By Carrboro Warehouse Fire Continue To Work

Posted February 9, 2004

— After nearly 48 hours, a massive fire in a Carrboro warehouse that started over the weekend is finally out. While investigators work to find out what started the fire, employees decided to make the best of it and continued to work Monday.

Most of the 16 employees based at Saffelle Inc. Warehouse were working on the bus using cell phones Monday to coordinate orders and deliveries.

"We have been home calling all of our customers so that they know that we are still in business," sales representative Kelly Pink said.

Clouds of thick smoke billowed out of the facility late Saturday. The building, located off N.C. 54, was filled with commercial cleaning supplies.

"We made the decision early on from an environmental standpoint it was better to let it burn rather than extinguish it," said Chief Rodney Murray of the Carrboro Fire Department.

Fire crews were able to get inside the 25,000-foot warehouse Monday to investigate, but they do not suspect anything suspicious.

Firefighters doused hot spots with thousands of gallons of water, but said they were conservative because the water picked up chemicals inside the building and then headed down the ditch toward Morgan Creek -- Orange County's water supply. EPA contractors were stationed at the ditches to stop the run-off before it could cause problems.

The fire chief said Monday that EPA tests show the air and nearby water supply are safe. He said the situation was helped by the way the facility was set up.

The company has been in Orange County since 1970 and at its current location for 27 years. Owner Milton Safelle said the fire is devastating, but he is insured and will rebuild.

"The manufacturers are all willing to help us get the rest of the stuff we need right away to get back in production," he said.

The company supplies cleaning supplies to schools, business and hospitals across the state.

Safelle said losses are estimated at $3 million to $4 million. He plans to set up a temporary location in the next few days.

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Kelcey Carlson

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