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Holmes Iron & Metal scrapyard fire under investigation

EAST SPENCER — An early Monday fire at Holmes Iron & Metal, a scrapyard at 629 N. Long St., remains under investigation.

Multiple fire departments and a tanker task force were called to battle a blaze.

It was only 15 months ago that a massive fire started in a scrap pile at the business. Fire officials said Tuesday that the Monday fire, which began about 4:30 a.m., was not as extensive as the July 2018 fire.

East Spencer Fire Chief Shawn McBride said firefighters initially believed the three-alarm would require the tanker task force to supply water. He said firefighters from the East Spencer Fire Department arrived at 4:36 a.m. and were able to use an aerial ladder truck to spray water over the fire.

McBride said since the fire was under control, the departments with a tanker task force were called off. The task force agencies that were en route were Salisbury, Spencer, Granite Quarry, Ellis Cross Country, Faith, Locke, Union, Miller’s Ferry and Rockwell fire departments.

McBride said the owners of the scrapyard, including Dwayne Holmes, were able to move piles of rubble with an excavator. At the same time, firefighters poured water on the pile.

“Anytime there has been a fire, they have always worked well with us to get it out,” said Rowan County Fire Division Chief Deborah Horne.

She said the Fire Marshal’s Office conducted a hazardous materials investigation.

Fire Investigator Darrell Nichols said once it became daylight, someone noticed the water runoff had a blue tint. A hazardous materials team was called in to make sure it wasn’t hazardous waste.

Nichols said pH paper was used to identify the material, which was found to be mildly acidic and contain petroleum. Since the material had traveled downstream and the hazmat team was not able to identify it, a cleanup company was called in to conduct further tests.

A few samples were pulled by the cleanup company and the N.C. Division of Soil and Water. The samples will be taken to a state lab to identify the chemical compound, Nichols said.

He said the local hazmat team put up filter fences and straw designed to absorb any chemicals in the Long Street area.

Fire officials noted the business has been cited for four inspection violations since 2007, all of them in 2014. The business is inspected biennially, with the most recent inspection in April, when no violations were found.

Horne said in a 2014 inspection, four violations were found — exit signs not lit, doors not fastening correctly, wiring not up to code, and an expired fire extinguisher. Horne said all the violations were addressed with a 30-day grace period.

She said the business has not been cited for any violations since then and the owners have worked to make sure all the equipment is in proper working order.

The inspections cover the buildings as well as the distance between the scrap piles and the height of the piles. Horn said the materials in the piles are not inspected.

Dwayne Holmes said he is thankful for the police and fire response.

“It was a quick response. They put the fire out, and it was done. It was all handled very quickly,” he said.

As to previous violations, Holmes said he’s worked his hardest to solve any problems.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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