The former Culp Weaving Mill continues to burn after fire crews from across central North Carolina — including Alamance, Guilford and Orange Counties — responded to a fire at 300 E. Parker St. in Graham overnight Nov. 12.
According to Graham Fire Chief Tommy Cole, the fire department was called to the former Culp Weaving Mill around 7:55 p.m. Nov. 12. Cole said crews battled to contain the blaze throughout the night, with the worst of the event occurring around midnight when a fire wall failed within the structure. Cole said he believes roughly 50 to 100 firefighters were on scene at any given time.
Homes along Parker Street were evacuated to protect residents due to a risk of collapse on the building. According to Cole, the fire department also contacted Duke Energy to cut power during the response. The Graham Recreation Center on College Street served as a temporary shelter for those affected in the community, according to Graham Mayor Jennifer Talley.
The fire was contained to the structure by around 3 to 4 a.m. in the morning on Nov. 13. Cole said most of the fire was out by 8 a.m., with hotspots remaining.
As of Nov. 14, isolated small hotspots continued to burn inside the structure, as smoke continued to rise from the structure into local neighborhoods around the site.
“So everything's burning underneath it. So it's a matter of just it's gonna have to burn itself out or we continue to put water on it,” Cole said. “It's going to smoke and smolder probably for the next two or three days at least.”
The source of the fire has not yet been identified according to Beau Russell, fire inspector at the Graham Fire Department. Although Cole said the fire is considered suspicious by the nature and location it occurred, he said he believes determining the cause of the fire will be challenging due to the scale of the blaze.
“Unfortunately, buildings that size — when they burn like that — sometimes are very hard because any evidence burns up inside the fire,” Cole said. “So we've called our friends from the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] that helped us last time so we have just kind of been working with them, bouncing ideas off each other.”
This marked the second major fire at the same complex, the first of which occurred in October 2022 and resulted in multiple confirmed structural collapses.
The roughly 11-acre complex was used until Culp, the current name of the company, closed the facility in 2007 when it decided to move operations to Anderson, South Carolina, and overseas to Shanghai.
The owner of the complex, UK Warehousing LLC, is registered as a North Carolina Domestic Limited-Liability Company in Morrisville, North Carolina.
Records from the Alamance County Tax Administration show that UK Warehousing LLC has failed to pay taxes on the property since 2016. Cumulatively, UK Warehousing LLC owes roughly $17,647 in taxes.
One resident from the Graham area who wished to remain anonymous said they have had concerns about security around the complex, especially after the October 2022 fire.
“There were already holes in the fence, but then the October 2022 fire happened, and the fire department cut large swaths of the fence out so they could get in and there was no effort made to secure the property at all,” the resident said. “Anybody who wanted to could easily walk in there.”