On Nov. 21, at around 9:23 a.m., the faculty, staff and students of Western Carolina University were informed, through an email from My Cat, of a “possible working fire” at the strip mall on Centennial Dr. The strip mall is home to Subway, Rolling Stone Burrito, Mad Batter and Bob’s Mini Mart. A few hours later smoke engulfed the valley.
Krista Craig, a freshman stated, “I was asleep this morning and I thought the sirens I heard were just one of the normal ones driving by. And, I finally got up and saw the big cloud of smoke around downtown Cullowhee. As I walked to class this morning, the smoke covered everything.”
According to Bill Talent, the firefighters were able to contain the fire by creating a space between Mad Batter and Bob’s Mini Mart. In this way, the fire could not spread. Talent added that Subway, Mad Batter and Rolling Stone will be a complete loss. Bob’s Mini Mart may have water damage, but they will be fine.
8:40 a.m. – The fire was first noticed by students.
10:14 a.m. – The university sent out an email warning students and faculty to avoid the area.
10:17 a.m. – Fire broke through the front of the second story.
11:08 a.m. – The university reported through My Cat that no injuries had been observed.
12 p.m. – A total of 15 fire trucks from fire departments all over the area including Cullowhee, Sylva, Balsam, Asheville, Junaluska, Cashiers, Bryson City and many others were on scene at WCU’s campus.
12:11 p.m. – Fire departments are beginning to leave.
12:44 p.m. – Talent stated they are testing the air to see if there is any asbestos. According to reports, the apartments above the Strip Mall contain asbestos. Talent he does not believe there is of the harmful fibers floating about, but they are taking every precaution.
12:50 p.m. – After testing the air, no asbestos was found.
1:43 p.m. – Some classes have been canceled due to students have respiratory problems. State Bureau of Investigation is on the scene. Bill Talent reported that stations have been set up for smoke inhalation as routine procedure.
1:50 p.m. – Talent is unsure of who will head the investigation, but SBI is the most likely since Western Carolina is state property.