Local News

Mandatory evacuation lifted near site of Warrenton fire

Posted February 3, 2011 6:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 3, 2011 6:56 p.m. EST

— Town officials in Warrenton lifted a mandatory evacuation order Thursday evening for more than two dozen businesses and more than 100 residents after a fire that destroyed a farm supply store Wednesday.

The blaze started late Wednesday afternoon at Southern States Farm & Garden near downtown and quickly spread because of the wind and flammable materials inside the store.

Emergency crews evacuated dozens of homes and 25 businesses within a three-block radius because of air quality concerns.

State air quality officials advised town officials Thursday that air quality levels were no longer a public health concern.

But officials said a voluntary evacuation order was still in effect and that residents with health concerns might want to stay away from the area.

Earlier Thursday, Warren County officials declared a state of emergency in Warrenton, which allows the town to receive state and federal funding to help pay for fighting the fire and the cleanup.

The fire was still burning Thursday evening because of concerns that spraying more water on the building would let chemicals run into the town's water supply, authorities said.

The store sold hazardous and flammable materials, including fertilizer, aerosols, propane and ammunition.

Authorities said the fire started in the rear of the store, and they don't suspect foul play, although they haven't determined the cause. The State Bureau of Investigation arson team was helping local fire investigators.

Crews from eight fire departments, including some from as far away as Raleigh and Virginia, battled the blaze and contained it to the store, which spans about two blocks.

The crackle of flames was punctuated by the occasional explosion of products in the burning store.