Residents flee airborne acid as massive fire breaks out at NC zinc plant

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MOORESBORO, N.C. (WNCN/CBS/AP) — Authorities in North Carolina say a fire at a zinc production plant in Mooresboro forced some residents to evacuate the area early Monday.

The American Zinc Products plant went up in flames around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday and was still burning around 5 a.m. The fire was finally out by the early afternoon.

The fire started Sunday night at the plant, which lies near the border between North and South Carolina. Officials said that firefighters contained the blaze to an area of the facility that does not require evacuations, according to Rutherford County Emergency Management, CBS affiliate WPSA reports. That has since changed.

Deputies went door-to-door warning people to evacuate as the burning plant released sulfuric acid into the air, and the county says about a half-mile area has been evacuated.

Rutherford County Assistant Fire Marshal John Greenway told news outlets that firefighters had to be pulled away from the scene after their gear tested positive for hazardous materials.

He says this is a cautionary measure until officials determine what chemicals they’re dealing with.

The plant, which used to be known as the Horse Head Plant, is served by a rail line, has its own rail yard and is at the end of Hicks Grove Road in Mooresboro.

Numerous fire departments from Rutherford County, Spartanburg County, Cherokee County, and Polk County were at the scene.

“Please say a prayer for all First Responders right now battling a business fire at Horse Head Plant. Our crews from Chesnee and other units from Spartanburg County are on the scene assisting,” the Chesnee Community Fire Department wrote on Facebook.

According to American Zinc Recycling’s website, the Mooresboro facility removes and refines metals to make “special high-grade (SHG) zinc and continuous-galvanizing grade (CGG).”

An emergency shelter has been set up at Chase Middle School, located at 840 Chase High Road.

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