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Fire Will Set $15M Project’s End Date Back

Large billows of smoke emanate from MDS warehouse fire.

Woodfin – People all over the Asheville area saw enormous billows of black smoke for miles emanating from the town limits of Woodfin. According to Woodfin Fire Chief Jeff Angel, an afternoon fire on Tuesday (November 10) at the Metropolitan Sewage District Treatment plant in Woodfin drew more than 25 fire departments from 5 counties. It also set back a $15 million project’s end by months.

Angel said his department received the call about 3:31 p.m., and when they arrived, the large warehouse at the plant was already “well involved.” 

“I’d say close to a hundred [firefighting personnel],” worked the fire, he said.

No one was injured in the blaze, and crews worked into the night, bringing the fire under control.

Angel said the most challenging part of fighting the blaze was shuttling water up to the warehouse located up a hill on the backside of the treatment plant’s property. Eventually, water was taken from the French Broad River to supply the water needed to fight the flames.

Angel said that the structure and the equipment inside were a total loss, but fuel storage tanks containing diesel were kept from igniting through the firefighters’ efforts. 

“We stopped the fire from spreading to the fuel tanks.”

Angel said the last department cleared the scene at 9:53 p.m. with Buncombe County Fire Marshal’s Office staying overnight. He also said that the Fire Marshal’s Office, along with the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI), were currently investigating the fire’s cause.

Jerry VeHaun, chairman of the MSD Board and mayor of Woodfin, told <em>The Tribune</em> that the fire should have no effect on the processing of wastewater for the area. He also said there were a couple of tractors and a small backhoe along with other equipment and supplies stored in the warehouse.

An update by Tom Harty, general manager at MSD, on Monday (November 16) said the fire is still under investigation by the insurance company, but the “unofficial word” from the SBI is that the fire was not arson, he told The Tribune.

Asked if they had an estimate on the damage, Harty said, “No, that’s what my staff is doing right now. They wouldn’t even let us in until this morning…It’s going to be a while.”

Harty did say that some of the new equipment for a multi-year, $15 million expansion had been stored in the warehouse, which burned. He said that project was scheduled to end in early 2021. He now expected the loss of equipment in the fire to set back the project’s end date to later in 2021.

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