Tornado cleanup crew sparks large Catawba fire

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Large flames and black smoke could be seen coming out of the former Southern Furniture Monday.

CATAWBA, N.C. — A demolition company cleaning up tornado damage in the town of Catawba Monday are believed to have accidentally started a large fire inside an old warehouse, according to officials.

The company was using a cutting torch inside the former Southern Furniture building when the large blaze began, according to fire officials. Photos of the fire show large flames and black smoke shooting out of the old industrial building.

The building had been damaged during a tornado in January. Crews were clearing the storm debris when the fire started.

About 30 firefighters from the Catawba Volunteer Fire Department and other agencies Monday fought the flames for about 50 minutes before the fire was under control.

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The EF-1 tornado on January 9 is believed to have traveled nine miles with peak winds of 110 mph, according to the National Weathe Service. One person died when the tornado struck a community of manufactured homes near Claremont.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is helping residents and businesses affected by the Jan. 9 severe weather in Catawba, Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Iredell and Lincoln counties through low-interest disaster loans. It comes after a disaster declaration request from Gov. Roy Cooper, which the governor announced Thursday was formally approved.

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