At 10:27 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 10, firefighters were dispatched to VanWingerden Greenhouses in Mills River, N.C. They set to work extinguishing a massive fire that caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages. The cause of the fire was not determined but was deemed “suspicious” by investigators.
The nature of the greenhouse and its contents made extinguishing the fire an intense battle for firefighters. A highly flammable cloth hanging from the ceiling quickly ignited and spread the flames. The plastic enclosure melted in the heat, dripping onto the firefighters and creating toxic smoke. “It was one of the worst-case scenarios for toxic smoke,” said Mills River Fire Chief Rick Livingston.
The three-acre greenhouse housed poinsettias for the holiday season. Luckily, the fire was contained and other greenhouses on the property were not harmed. Greenhouse owner Bert Lemkes said that the company would look to replace the destroyed plants, but it would be difficult to salvage any of the plants rescued from the fire.