Updated 11:15 a.m., Oct. 23:
A massive fire at a lumber storage facility in Cleveland continues to burn as of Friday afternoon but has dwindled and been contained since about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, after destroying three buildings and about 3 million board feet of inventory early in the morning, Cleveland fire officials say.
No injuries have been reported.
Cleveland Fire Chief Ricky Pruitt told The Times firefighters were called to the fire at North Georgia Hardwoods off Helen Highway at around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, and that the buildings were “fully involved” when firefighters arrived. He said the fire originated in one building and spread to two more that also stored lumber.
“The piles of lumber are still burning, but everything is contained inside what’s left of the walls,” Pruitt said on Thursday of the site on Appalachian Trail Drive. "It'll burn for a couple of days because of all the lumber that was in there."
The fire chief said a nearby resident called to report the fire, and about 40 personnel worked to fight it.
White County firefighters and inmate firefighters from the Lee Arrendale women’s correctional facility in Habersham County assisted the Cleveland Fire Department.
Pruitt told The Times Friday morning that investigations into the cause of the fire would likely not be able to begin until Monday, Oct. 26 or Tuesday, Oct. 27, as the site is still too hot.
As news of the fire broke Thursday, a swirl of videos began circulating on social media. Facebook comments also indicated North Georgia Hardwoods had burned previously, but Pruitt said Thursday afternoon that while the business experienced a small fire in one of its warehouses around a year ago, it was another lumber business that burned to the ground years prior.
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Larry Mason, who lives "walking distance" from North Georgia Hardwoods said he arrived at the fire shortly after firefighters had. He posted several videos on his personal Facebook page and said he stood watching the fire for at least three hours in the early morning as deputies and firefighters rushed to and fro.
"I stood there until 7 o'clock watching it," he said. "When I first got there, it had just started getting through the roof where it could get more wind and make the fire bigger."
Mason said as the fire continued to burn he saw metal beams bend, the roof fall and what looked like bursts of flame from propane tanks on trucks catching fire. He said he'd been considering getting a job at the business before it burned.
"That's not going to happen now, obviously," he said.
Phone calls to North Georgia Hardwoods went unanswered Thursday and Friday.