UPDATE: Some American Furniture employees head back to work following massive fire

About 150 of the American Furniture workers were back on the job Tuesday.

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 8:18 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 10:13 PM

UPDATE 1/9/18
Near Ecru in Pontotoc County, the investigation continues into a massive fire at American Furniture Manfacturing but 150 workers clocked in Tuesday.

Just four days ago, things were very different at American Furniture as a huge fire raged, forcing the plant to shut down. Numerous fire departments fought the blaze. But here is where the good news comes in -- some of the company's employees returned back to work Tuesday.

"Blessed, very blessed that my team and the recliner plant in general was able to come back so quickly it was a wonderful feeling," Supervisor Christi McBrayer said.

Friday morning, flames from the American Furniture plant in Pontotoc County shot high into the air. But just a few days later, a much different scene. Everywhere you look, the remains of part of the facility -- a company that produces upholstered furniture and is one of the major players in this region -- are little more than twisted wreckage.

"I thought we were never coming back to work," Boxer Chance Cummings said.

Cummings said he was inside of the plant during the time of the fire and was shocked once he stepped outside.

Monday and Tuesday company leaders met the state fire marshal, who would not comment because the fire is still under investigation.

But a company representative told WTVA Monday morning that about 30% of American Furniture's work force will go back to work in what they call Plant II. That's where motion furniture and recliners are assembled. Those workers reported there at their normal start times.

In a statement on Saturday (the day after the fire), the company said its Motion and Recliner factory was untouched by the fire. Leaders said they could begin manufacturing again as soon as power was restored. The company also says its offices were also untouched by the fire -- and that its stationary factory is in relatively good shape - only minor cleanup needed there.

"We've been working with insurance and fire marshals and everybody to get things cleared up and to get people back to work," Merchandising Manager Emily Bass said.

The plant does not know when everyone else will be able to return to work but it says it hopes to get everything fixed fairly quickly.

UPDATE: 1/6/18

PONTOTOC COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- American Furniture Manufacturing released an official statement Saturday regarding the fire that broke out at their plant in Pontotoc County Friday.

In the statement they said the plant will be manufacuring furniture again very soon. Many parts of the plant were untouched or just need minor smoke cleanup.

Pontotoc County Fire Coordinator Adam Patton says the fire is now completely contained after a total of 20 fire departments and 90 firemen worked for six hours battling the blaze. 

CFO Todd Campbell says they are working closely with the Mississippi State Fire Marshal to determine the cause of the fire and get final approval to resume operations.

The fire coordinator plans to meet with leaders of the company Monday to discuss the damage.

Again the cause of the fire is still under investigation.


ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PONTOTOC COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) – Firefighters were called to a large plant fire in Pontotoc County Friday morning.

The fire happened at the American Furniture plant near Ecru. The first call came into 911 sometime near 7:18 a.m.

Officials say there were no injuries, but at least one person was treated for possible smoke inhalation.

The fire started in one section of the plant and quickly spread into another section. The plume of dark black smoke could be seen miles away.

Th exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

Several in the community were concerned about the blaze when it began. 

"A lot of our customers lost their jobs," shared Andrew Nowlin, who is an operting owner at a Shell station down the road. "They eat breakfast here, lunch.”

A family, who lives close to the American Furniture plant said their kids woke them up worried about the fire.  

“Our kids were getting on the bus and they were hollering come look come look,” said resident Brianna Haws. 

More than 700 workers were employed at the plant. Some of the furniture was saved, but more than 50,000 pieces of furniture were inside the plant at the time. Workers say the company's inventory was completed before Christmas.

Around noon, firefighters were still on the scene fighting several hotspots. Later in the afternoon, fire crews were able to fully contain the remaining fire. Crews will remain on the scene to monitor. 

This is not the first time buildings at American Furniture have burned. A decade ago, another blaze in one of the same buildings that burned today. Tommy Stalnaker works at the cement company across the street. He remembers that blaze well.

"Somewhere around 10 years ago, it did just about the same thing as today," said Stalnaker. "I'd say it was practically a total loss." 

Still, American is well known in the furniture business. WTVA's contacts in the industry tell us that American furniture is a force to be reckoned with, selling to most of the Top 100 retailers in the country. The company makes sofas, loveseat, sectionals, recliners, and tables. And as you can imagine, with the Furniture Market going on right now, many in the industry wondering what manufacturing capacity American Furniture will have when this is all over.


Stay tuned to WTVA 9 News and WTVA.com as this story develops.

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