WINSTON-SALEM (N.C.) — Due to the potential for a large explosion, Winston-Salem has asked people who live within one mile of a burning fertilizer plant fire to evacuate.
e Officials from the city confirmed that there were small explosions at this plant.
As the building was completely engulfed, bright orange flames could be seen shooting up into the sky. Also, thick plumes of smoke were visible as firetrucks and other emergency vehicles illuminated the area.
According to Winston-Salem Police Department, a section of the road was shut down while emergency crews responded to the fire at 8:20 on Monday. The road remains closed.
At a press conference Tuesday morning, Winston-Salem Battalion Chief Patrick Grubbs stated that the scene was still active and that an explosion was possible.
Grubbs stated that they won’t be leaving the region soon. He asked everyone to stay clear of the area, and warned of poor air quality and a lot of smoke.
According to firefighters, there was the possibility of a massive explosion of ammonium-nitrate. Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo stated Monday evening that the large amount of ammonium nitrate at the site had caused fire crews to abandon their fire-fighting operations.
WGHP reported that the building also collapsed, making it difficult to access the product within the building.
Grubb stated that firefighters had been fighting the fire for almost two hours before being pulled out. Emergency Management was then called and drone teams from other fire departments were used to access the scene every 15-20 minutes, he added.
Firefighters couldn’t flow enough water to be certain they could maintain a temperature that would prevent a detonation.
He stated that once the railcar at the rear of a structure was involved, it was impossible to get water to the scene. So they decided to pull out because the large explosive hazard had become dangerous.
Grubbs stated that water was being pumped to the rear of the site from a fire-hydrant as of Tuesday morning.
Don’t wait for anything to happen. On Twitter, Mayo stated that something had happened. “Now is the right time to get out.”
Around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, first responders drove through the area asking residents for evacuation. The threat of an explosion loomed. Grubb stated that first responders were also visiting each house to ensure people are safe.
The City of Winston-Salem stated on its Twitter page that “the evacuation area around 4440 North Cherry Street contains almost 6,500 residents or 2,497 householders.”
Wake Forest University issued a statement asking students living off-campus to leave. Wake Forest University also stated that it is developing long-term plans to assist those without an alternative.
The evacuation area also includes the Forsyth Correctional Center.
Officials from Winston-Salem said that a shelter was set up at Winston-Salem Fairgrounds. People who evacuated should expect to be away for 48 hours.
Local media outlets reported that the fertilizer plant was shut down at the time of the fire and that no employees were present.
Grubbs stated that officials from Weaver Fertilizer Plant had not made any comment on the fire.
There have been no injuries reported. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.