CHARLOTTE,North Carolina– On Thursday, a significant fire erupted in the SouthPark Mall area of south Charlotte, leading to a substantial response from first responders.
The Charlotte Fire Department swiftly arrived at the scene on Liberty Row Drive, which is in close proximity to SouthPark Towers.
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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has issued a request for people to avoid the SouthPark area to facilitate the efficient response of emergency crews to the fire.
They are specifically advising drivers to steer clear of Liberty Drive, Fairview Road, Assembly Street, Barclay Downs Drive, and Park South Drive until the flames are fully contained.
Upon arrival at the scene, responders were met with intense flames that were consuming the wooden structure, leading to the collapse of beams. It was reported that the smoke had significantly deteriorated the air quality, reaching a “very unhealthy” level.
Sprinkle strongly advised everyone to remain indoors due to the dense smoke, as the chemical composition of the smoke is still unknown to experts.
According to workers at the scene, the fire at SouthPark Mall area started at approximately 9 a.m. During the incident, a witness informed WCNC Charlotte Anchor Jane Monreal that a crane operator became trapped in the crane when the fire erupted.
However, the operator was successfully rescued.
The thick cloud of smoke generated by the fire at SouthPark Mall was so dense that it appeared on radar. A Public Safety Alert was issued to smartphones in the area, urging residents not to call 911 unless it was an emergency.
A witness described the scene, stating that the smoke was so intense that it obscured daylight, making it appear dark instead.
“The fire was immediately behind my desk, so initially, I was wondering why one side of the building was dark and the other side was light, so when I spun around, I saw the building was smoking,” the witness described.
The witness said, at that point, they started taking video of the smoke.
“We watched it start to smoke gradually, and then we saw the smoke get bigger, and then, initially, the front of the building caught on fire,” the witness described.
STRUCTURE FIRE: 7700 block Liberty Row Dr. Charlotte Fire fighters currently on scene battling blaze at construction site. pic.twitter.com/ZWIBK1WuNq
— Charlotte Fire Dept (@CharlotteFD) May 18, 2023
They noticed the side of the building was smoking, so they started yelling out of the window, but the firefighters couldn’t hear them.
“Before we know it, the back of the building is smoking too, so they contained the front of the fire, but then the side started to burn, and then the side of the building fell on the parking garage, and then the back of the building almost exploded pretty much,” the witness went on to explain.
Their fire alarm started to go off in their building, so it was evacuated. She said everyone was safe thanks to that fire alarm.
No word on what caused the fire, but there are reports a generator caused it.
Looking back at past five-alarm fires in Charlotte’s history, a storage building was destroyed by a five-alarm fire in southwest Charlotte in July 2022.