Local News

Butner Plant Fire Causes Millions in Damage, Loss of Jobs

Posted May 11, 1999

— An early morning fire in Granville County has caused $3 million in damage and left at least a dozen people out of work. The Mulching Division of the Southern Pallet Plant in Butner is out of business, at least temporarily.

The call came in around 5 a.m. Wednesday; the building continued smoldering throughout the day. The fire had a lot of fuel and just kept burning.

The owner of the business says he thinks the fire was caused by a spark from one of the pieces of heavy equipment inside the building.

Fire investigators did not get inside the building until late Wednesday afternoon and have not yet had a chance to determine a cause.

Propane tanks on heavy equipment inside the building exploded all morning, making work even more difficult for fire crews.

Rosa Bullock is an employee at the plant where they grind old pallets into mulch. Bullock also witnessed the fire.

"The only thing I could see was the smoke...but when we drove up it was the building and I just stood and shook my head. I'm just glad there wasn't anybody in the building," Bullock says.

No one was injured in the fire, but the company suffered a huge loss: $3 million in building and equipment damage. At least a dozen employees also lost their jobs, at least for now.

Employees wonder when, and if, they'll be be back at work. "It's real sad because it's our livelihood," says plant employee Joe Heart. "I hope to be put back as soon as possible if that's what they decide to do."

The owner of the business says he is going to try to resume the mulching operation somewhere else on his property and get his employees back to work.

The fire also raised concerns about safety. Butner's fire hydrants did not have enough water power for the pumper truck so officials had to call on their neighbors to pool their resources.

"Pressure at this location was low, so we had to get the help from other departments to handle the situation," said Butner Fire Chief Tim Jenkins.

The chief says he has had that water problem before, but the money has not been in the budget to fix it.


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