08/30/09 292 W, 1 I - + 15 - 9 Friday's Furniture Factory Fire in Morganton

Seven fire departments fought a massive blaze at an old furniture plant in Morganton on East Fleming Drive and Hogan Street early Friday morning. The former Drexel Heritage plant was reported ablaze just after 3 a.m. Morganton, Valdese, Longview, Gamewell, Oak Hill, Glen Alpine, and Salem fire departments were on scene, reports this Morganton News Herald article. Due to the current condition of the building-- dilapidated walls and floors, three levels, etc.-- the operations were defensive only. A number of aerial streams were utilized. As flames shot dozens of feet into the air, all surrounding roads where closed. The fire was contained by Saturday morning, reports the paper, and most of the crews had cleared by noon. The building had been commercially vacant for years, though some of the structure was used for storage. That area was not burned.

Jennifer Frew/News Herald photo

When was the plant built? Tax records say 1901, which might be accurate. Sanborn Insurance Maps show the core section present in 1924, and somewhat larger in 1931. How big was the present plant? Maybe 500,000 square-feet? More? The tax record property card breaks the building into segments, but also includes free-standing structures. Must have been a nightmare to pre-plan. And our state's Piedmont region is absolutely full of such factories, both vacant and operational. Maybe out readers can share some experiences. Could be a good research project, as well, come to think of it. Largest factory fires in North Carolina history. That would be an interesting list to see.

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