HCC fire ruled accidental

By DeeAnna Haney | Nov 21, 2012
The fire that destroyed the abandoned sawmill at Haywood Community College began when torches were being used in equipment removal. The cause was ruled accidental.

The blaze that left the sawmill at Haywood Community College in ruins the night of Nov. 12 has been ruled accidental, authorities say.

Det. Tony Cope with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office said a construction crew was inside the sawmill earlier that day moving equipment and using torches to cut bolts when a small fire started.

"They had a small fire and extinguished it with water and stayed around a while to make sure it was out," Cope said.

But the saw dust inside the mill likely caused the fire to rekindle just hours after they left.

Because of the accidental nature of the fire, he said no one will be charged with any crime.

Maggie Valley business owner Kyle Edwards was the major buyer at a September auction when the sawmill equipment was sold.

His plan was to relocate the equipment, open a small sawmill in the county and create jobs for more than a dozen.

He was in the process of removing the large pieces of sawmill equipment before the fire destroyed almost everything on the site. In addition to sawmill equipment he purchased at the auction, Edwards lost machinery he had on campus for the removal process. He estimated his loss at well over $100,000, though he is unsure how much will be covered by insurance.

Interim HCC President Bill Aiken said in a news conference after the fire that the building and equipment on site were insured.

The fire was investigated by the Haywood County Fire Marshal, Haywood County Sheriff's Office and the State Bureau of Investigation.