Avondale Mills Fire

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It happened around 7 o'clock Friday night... A small fire in a dust filtration tunnel at Avondale Mills.

Officials say sparks must have ignited some cotton in that tunnel, causing circles of smoke and even more - an evacuation.

News 12's Kate Tillotson was on the scene.

First and foremost, no one was hurt tonight. Employees were all led out safely and told to go home... but in light of what's happened in the past, all eyes were on these emergency lights.

"You see a bunch of smoke,” said Elaine Hazel, one of 62 employees forced to evacuate tonight during her shift. “That's all you can see right now, is smoke. There's no big fire but you can see a lot of smoke."

The smoke was not visible from outside the building because the small fire started in the mill's dust filtration tunnel, an underground system in its weave room.

"There must have been a small spark that ignited some of the lint, the cotton, that accumulates in those tunnels and a little bit of cotton will cause a whole lot of smoke."

And a whole lot of smoke and emergency lights at a place like Avondale Mills draws a lot of attention... especially after an eighty ton chlorine spill last year.

"Certainly the events of January 6th 2005 are still very fresh in all of our minds and it's always a scary situation when you feel like you potentially have an emergency situation."

"In light of what we've been through we try to be prepared for the worst. I mean hope for the best but you always try to be prepared for the worst."

Officials insist this was not the worst. Instead it was a small and isolated fire that caused no damage to equipment or personnel. In fact just one worker with asthma was taken to the hospital for precaution.

"We want to say we appreciate all the emergency responders, the GVW, Phil Napier’s group, Mike Hunt, the sheriff's department."

According to Ms. Rodgers, the crew coming in - which would be the overnight shift - should be on schedule.

Both Rodgers and Fire Chief Napier say that in any emergency, getting everyone out safely is the most important thing.