Fire at Sumter recycling warehouse could burn for days, officials say

SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - The Sumter Fire Department has contained a massive fire that broke out at a warehouse on Tuesday night, but it could burn for days, officials said Wednesday.

A little after 10 p.m. Tuesday, crews were called to the structure fire near South Lafayette Drive and Fulton Street.

As of Wednesday around noon, firefighters remain on the scene.

Fire scene

More from the scene of East Fulton Street fire...

Posted by Sumter Police Department on Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The building, the former VB Williams Furniture Plant located at 602 East Fulton St., is a complete loss. The building is now known as Howell’s Recyclable Materials, a recyclables warehouse, according to officials.

Very few people work there and the plant sits in an industrial park inside of a neighborhood.

The fire chief walked us through the scene to explain what was happening on Tuesday night:

LIVE with Joey Duggan Division Chief, Sumter Fire Department on the scene of the former VB Williams furniture plant Alicia Barnes John Drew Aunkst WIS

Posted by WIS TV on Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sumter Fire were assisted by crews from Shaw Air Force Base and Columbia Fire.

No injuries have been reported and officials do not believe that anyone was in the building when the fire started.

Joey Duggan, Division Chief of Sumter Fire Department, says walls have collapsed and propane cylinders have gone off within the building, damaging equipment that was used inside.

Officials say the fire was so massive, smoke from it could be seen from satellites.
Officials say the fire was so massive, smoke from it could be seen from satellites. (Source: Sumter Fire Department)

He also said the recyclables inside of the building caused the fire to burn intensely.

Duggan described the fire as being so massive that smoke from it could be seen from satellites.

“It had a very heavy fire load. It is a very, very large fire,” Duggan said. “It put off a significant amount of smoke. In fact, I thought I heard someone mention -- and again I don’t remember who it was that said it -- that they saw it through the satellite they could see that the smoke conditions were so heavy.”

He says that firefighters at the scene were using an exterior attack to combat the flames due to the unsafe nature of the fire from the inside of the building.

The fire is currently contained to an area, but not controlled according to officials. They also say that the fire could be burning for a few days before it is completely put out.

Former VB Williams Furniture Plant fire in Sumter
Former VB Williams Furniture Plant fire in Sumter (Source: Kenneth Justice)

There was an additional fire in a neighboring building that started from embers that flew over from the plant fire. That building was also a complete loss.

Railroad tracks next to the site were affected, because firefighters had to run lines over and under them.

Those in the area should expect to see smoke for the next few days.

Officials say no other buildings in the area have been burned, but homes nearby temporarily had interrupted electrical service.

Water customers in the area were also warned they could see red water because of the amount being pumped to fight the fire.

Former VB Williams Furniture Plant fire in Sumter (courtesy of Jason Green)

Duggan also says that this is not the same building that burned down in 2018.

The cause of this massive fire is still under investigation.

Citizens are asked to avoid the area. South Lafeyette Drive has reopened, however the right northbound lane is still closed.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

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