An early morning fire Monday gutted a downtown structure, took out power and phone service and sent one fireman to the hospital.
Area fire departments responded to the scene of the blaze in the factory building located at 207 East Oak Street, at the corner of Oak Street and the alley running between Renfro and North Main Streets, known as Trinity Street. The building, known locally as “the old rope factory,” is located between the offices of The Mount Airy News and Old North State Winery.
Authorities were limiting access to nearby locations, including The News, but later confirmed the fire was contained within the Oak Street structure.
The Mount Airy Fire Department was assisted by volunteer departments from all over Surry County, Bannertown, Mountain Park, Franklin, Four Way, White Plains, South Surry, Pine Ridge, Pilot Knob, Central Surry, Westfield and Dobson, as well as the Cana, Virginia, fire department. Sixty-two fire department personnel were on the scene.
The call was received at 5:00:29 a.m., according to Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter, who said in a media release that the first response units were on the scene at 05:02:49 a.m. giving a response time of two minutes and twenty seconds.
As fire personnel arrived, flames were visible, and calls for assistance went out.
Poindexter said the fire was under control at 10:02:14 a.m., but firefighters were continuing to watch for hot spots to flare up where the building’s rubberized roof had fallen in.
“The fire chief did a great job,” said John Shelton, Surry County Emergency Medical Services director. “He had four ladder trucks on the scene very quickly. In addition to Mount Airy, there were ladder trucks from Franklin, Dobson and Pilot Knob.”
Poindexter reported two injuries, one of which he mentioned when speaking with Mount Airy News at noon, a firefighter with the Cana, Virginia, fire department who reportedly suffered what Poindexter thought might have been a myocardial infarction (or heart attack) after leaving the scene.
“He wasn’t feeling well and he left,” said Poindexter.
The firefighter was transported to Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem by Carroll County Fire and Rescue in Cana, Virginia, according to Carroll County Emergency Medical Services director, Everette Lineberry, who declined to give the firefighter’s name.
Lineberry characterized the firefighter’s symptoms as “heat-related” and said, “some of his symptoms might have been cardiac-related, but I think they were more heat-related. We won’t know for sure until after the doctors do their work.”
Lineberry said he did not believe that the firefighter had gone through the mobile rehab unit near the scene of the fire.
The rehab unit, as well as the Red Cross, was located in an adjoining parking lot behind Main-Oak Emporium.
Surry EMS director Shelton confirmed the firefighter did not get checked out at the rehab unit.
“As hot as it was, the fire chief was rotating firefighters in and out. No one stayed inside more than 45 minutes.”
Bill Marshall, from the office of the state fire marshal, was on the scene by noon, according to Poindexter, who also said an inspector from the North Carolina Department of Insurance was conducting an investigation, as is customary for fires resulting in large financial losses.
In addition to the Mount Airy Fire Department, the NC Fire Marshal and NC Department of Insurance, the fire is being investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Damage is estimated at $156,000 with $126,000 of that total being for property and $30,000 for the contents of the building.
The Mount Airy Fire Department’s media release found the cause of the accident to be “Accidental—Electrical.”
According to Mount Airy Fire Capt. Trey Leonard, power was off from Independence Boulevard south to Pine Street from Riverside Drive up to North Main.
Later, power was restored to some of the area, but buildings in the immediate vicinity, such as The News building, were expected to be without electricity until late in the day, possibly Tuesday.
The building was 23,500 square feet in size, according to Shelton. “It was a big building, and there wasn’t anything in it, except for some equipment, some solar panel equipment.”
Surry Communications reported damage to a communications cable via their Facebook page. “This fire has burnt our fiber optic cable and will affect many people around this area. The outage will affect people as far out as Bannertown. If you are experiencing an outage around this area, it is more than likely due to the fire. We have crews on standby but do no(t) have an estimated repair time.”
The burned building’s former owner, Tim Calloway, operated a rope factory there and said it was a tobacco warehouse built in 1946. The building is now owned by Araneum, a limited liability company at 1219 W. Lebanon St., according to Surry County tax records.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.