Massive fire rips through historic Granite Falls Mill

GRANITE FALLS, NC (July 27, 2017)…On Friday, July 21, 2017 an intense fire ripped through the century Old Shuford Mill building in downtown Granite Falls, North Carolina. The building and its contents are a complete loss. Thankfully no one was injured and no lives were lost.

All Caldwell County Fire Departments along with the Caldwell County Fire Marshall’s Office, Caldwell County EMS and the Granite Falls Police Department fought valiantly to fight the fire and to protect all surrounding properties and families. Fire Departments from Alexander, Burke, Catawba and Wilkes counties were also called upon to assist with battling the fire (we were told that there were 22 fire departments). The American Red Cross also supported the efforts.

The fire was contained as of 1:00am on Saturday, July 22, 2017. GFFD personnel remained on the scene throughout the night to extinguish any hotspots or flare ups.

There were 3 apartments, 5 businesses and approximately 25o storage units in use.

The 75,729-square foot warehouse sits on a 19-acre property.

Firefighters were able to save five buildings that surround the warehouse.

There is no estimate of total damage at this point.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. The Caldwell County Fire Marshall’s Office and the SBI will be investigating the cause and origin of the fire.

On the afternoon of Monday, July 24, 2017 officials from Caldwell County released a Fire Inspection Report that was completed just two days before the fire. The Fire Inspection was performed on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by Caldwell County Fire Marshall Kevin Brown. Listed in the report:

*Repair Sprinkler System ASAP! (Bring back in service)
*Provide 24-hour fire watch – walking grounds every hour and documenting until Sprinkler System is back online.
*Provide covers on all electrical panels and junction boxes.
*Repair non-working exit and emergency lighting throughout!
*Mount existing fire extinguishers.
*Add extinguishers so there is not more than 75 feet of travel distance between extinguishers.

(Will Re-Inspect 07-24-2017)
Violations must be corrected immediately!

Grainger was quoted as saying that when they found out a part was not operational after the inspection they immediately called Sunland who does their service work. The part needed (a jockey pump) had to be ordered and didn’t arrive before Friday night. Grainger said that it is fixed now. “That’s what the inspection reports are for – to find errors like that” stated Mike Grainger.

Granger said two people were doing the hourly walk the day of the fire. They did smell something around 4:30pm and spent about 30 minutes trying to locate the smell that was coming from the middle of the building in the storage units. They couldn’t recognize the smell. They finally just determined that someone was storing something like bad food or something else. The fire started an hour or so later.

We spoke to the owner, Mike Grainger, of the Old Shuford Mill property and he was visibly devastated taking call after call while we sat with him…a mixture of good and bad. Grainger told us that he loved bringing life back to this old mill and hopes to recover and continue.

The owner was working on an events room on the top floor in the back portion of the building that was going to be used for wedding receptions, parties, etc. We heard that there may have been a wedding reception that was previously booked.

As far as hitting home, this devastating fire has hit the entire Granite Falls Community very hard. We spoke to many people that have lost treasured family mementos that include photographs, Bibles, keepsakes, antiques, etc. Other people have lost home furnishings, clothing, toys, automobiles and much more. We have also spoke to people that worked for Shuford Mills, all in disbelief.

We, at the Caldwell Journal, were also affected by the fire as we operate and live in very close proximity to the Old Shuford Mill here in Granite Falls. After a somewhat normal day we decided to grab a bite to eat for supper and while getting into the car, noticed heavy black smoke billowing out of the vents on the side of the building. After a moment of complete shock, we scrambled to call 911 to report the smoke. Knowing that there was a business in the back of the building that often operated late, I ran up the bank to the fence and began calling out to anyone that was inside the building. Thankfully, two firefighters suddenly appeared and evacuated the workers from inside. The smoke then grew by an amazing rate and I suddenly realized that this is going to a major fire that would not be put out quickly. Our street soon became unbelievably chaotic with motorists and pedestrians completely blocking access which greatly obstructed the response of fire trucks. While residents on our street were not instructed to evacuate, many were taking it upon themselves to do so. We hurriedly moved our vehicles off the road away from the heat and debris as the fire was becoming increasingly intense. I knew that the army of volunteer firefighters would protect us and our properties from harm. Many emotions were felt that night as we watched the blaze burn such a historical landmark for this small town. We watched the great men and women from this county and the surrounding areas work tirelessly for hours, most volunteer, as they fought to get the fire under control.

“The Town of Granite Falls would like to thank all of the emergency responders to the incident and also thanks the volunteers who provided drinks, food, and supplies for the responders.”

The outpouring of support was amazing! Local businesses and residents pitched in and brought food, water, ice, etc. to the firefighters. Some of the firefighters we spoke to said they have never seen so many people willing to help.

The last time a major fire like the Old Shuford Mills Fire occurred was back in 1903. Here is an excerpt the book “Etched in Granite” that was written by Maxine McCall:

“A town’s worst nightmare happened in Granite Falls on November 4, 1903. The fire started in the Field and Smith Warehouse, which stood near the entrance to Dudley Avenue. Within in minutes a searing inferno raged out of control and spread unabated through the tinderbox town.

The warehouse, Field and Smith General Store, the Methodist Church, the Drug Store, Russell General Store – all were consumed. The roof of the Moore and Hoke General store also caught fire, but the building was saved. In this fire, the worst in the town’s history, the entire business district was ravaged, with only three buildings left standing. Every man and woman in town fought the fire with the only equipment available – buckets of water!”

Shuford Mills was one of Granite Falls first industries following Baird’s Forge. It was first built in 1880 on the site of Andrew Baird’s old iron works below the Mill Pond Dam on Gunpowder Creek. The mill first produced cotton yarn. The Shuford Family and Shuford Mills contributed greatly to Granite Falls over its many years in operation here locally. All of its buildings were considered historical landmarks.

Words are never adequate in moments like these. We will say though, that our hearts go out to you for all of your losses…