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Blaze at Clearwater Paper facility in North Carolina

SHELBY, North Carolina (From The Star) -- Firefighters worked for nearly 12 hours to extinguish a fire at Clearwater Paper Corp. in Shelby, that began just before 6 p.m. Saturday, 28 Jan 2017.

The call came in to Lattimore's No. 7 Volunteer Fire Department at 5:45 p.m. The department was assisted by Boiling Springs Rural, Cleveland County, No. 3, Polkville and Shanghai volunteer fire departments, as well as Shelby City Fire Department.

Richard Morgan, No. 7 chief, said fire crews were watering down flames and hot spots until around 4 a.m. Sunday.

The fire started in the paper storage area of the Clearwater Paper warehouse. High stacks of bundled paper waste are kept in that area, Morgan said, which meant fire officials faced some unique challenges as they worked.

The bundles of paper waste started to lean, and some fell as they got wet, covering hot spots. Morgan said firefighters had to be careful of falling stacks as they worked to find those hot spots.

"It was a slow process digging through that stuff," Morgan said. "You couldn't run in and attack the fire."

The exact cause of the fire is still unknown and under investigation. Morgan said any kind of spark around the paper waste in the storage warehouse could lead to a fire.

According to reports, around 100 employees were inside Clearwater Paper when the fire began. Morgan said all employees were evacuated and there were no injuries.

A Polkville firefighter was taken to Carolinas HealthCare System Cleveland with a minor injury after slipping off a loading dock while helping to get the fire under control. The firefighter, who was not named, was released from the hospital after treatment.

"He dislocated his shoulder," Morgan said. "The hospital was able to sedate him and get his shoulder back into position, and give him the medication he needed."

The monetary damages are still unknown at this time. Officials with Clearwater Paper were still cleaning when firefighters left early Sunday morning.

"It'll take them a while to get it all cleaned up," Morgan said. "It's basically a mess."

*****

Join Jim Thompson on the 2nd Annual Papermakers Mission Trip to Guatemala, 22 - 29 July 17. Build houses, talk about the pulp and paper industry. For more information, email jthompson@taii.com with "Guatemala" in the subject line.


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