Small spark causes smoky mess at Avondale Mills

By: Kate Tillotson
By: Kate Tillotson

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

Elaine Hazel is one of 62 employees forced to evacuate tonight during her shift. She describes the event: "You see a bunch of smoke. 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, 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.

Sharon Rodgers, Vice President of Human Resources, says, "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," says Rodgers.

"In light of what we've been through we try to be prepared for the worst,” Graniteville fire chief Phil Napier says. “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 and the Sheriff's department," says Rodgers.

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