Local News

Owners of Henderson plant to continue paying workers after fire

Posted May 30, 2017 4:17 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— The owners of a Henderson company that burned to the ground Monday said they will keep all of their workers on the payroll as they rebuild.

A fire erupted in a warehouse portion of the ETC of Henderson Inc. plant on Wakefield Avenue, and it took firefighters hours to control the raging blaze, which produced a cloud of smoke that could be seen up to 30 miles away.

About 75 workers were on the job at the time and all escaped without injury.

Owner Penny Demetriades said Tuesday that no one was aware of the fire until an employee saw some smoke coming from the area.

"My husband thought it was something that we could contain, but that didn't happen, and then the fire department got here, and it went from bad to worse," Demetriades said.

ETC is a janitorial supply company, but Demetriades said no accelerant materials were stored in the warehouse.

Henderson Fire Chief Steve Cordell said his investigators, along with agents from the State Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are still trying to pinpoint the cause of the fire.

"They are interviewing workers at this time, trying to figure out exactly what they saw, and then we will proceed with the investigation from there," Cordell said.

The fire doesn't appear to be suspicious, he said.

ETC also suffered a massive fire in 2003, and Demetriades said watching the plant burn Monday was like reliving a nightmare.

"I didn't ever want to be experiencing this sort of thing and didn't hope to ever be going through this ever again," she said.

The company, which is one of Vance County's largest employers, paid its employees throughout the rebuilding process back then, and Demetriades said she plans to do so again.

As long as an employee calls in each day, he or she will be paid for eight hours of work, she said.

"It's a family business, and I mean that in the best sense. Everybody who works here is part of that family," she said.

The company has insurance, but Demetriades said she doesn't expect rebuilding to be easy. It took a year to get a major piece of production equipment the last time fire destroyed the plant, she said.