February 6, 2022

8:26 p.m.

The City of Winston-Salem has announced that the evacuation zone for the Winston Weaver Fertilizer Plant fire has been reduced again to 275 feet from the plant effective 8 p.m. Sunday.

11:45 a.m.

A contractor working for the Winston Weaver Co. has established a toxicology hotline for residents who live in the area affected by the fire at the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant. The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 7 days a week by toxicologists who are aware of the hazards specific to this incident. It will remain active as long as they have steady volume. Weaver Fire Hotline: 866-412-7768.

February 5, 2022

3:50 p.m.

City officials are warning the public to stay out of Muddy, Mill and Monarcas creeks downstream from the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant and to keep pets and other animals out of the creeks due to elevated levels of chemicals in the water resulting from the fire at the plant.

In a press release from the City of Winston-Salem, officials said samples from a stormwater pipe of water runoff from the site found elevated levels of nitrites, nitrates, ammonia nitrogen and other potentially harmful chemicals. The pipe empties into Monarcas Creek south of the 8000 block of North Point Boulevard. Officials observed a fish kill along Monarcas Creek from the storm drain outfall to the creek's confluence with Mill Creek. Because Mill Creek flows into Muddy Creek, the advisory includes downstream portions of Muddy Creek.

The release also says the city has delivered a notice of violation to a Winston Weaver company representative after discovering that raw materials were left exposed to the rain at a seperate company storage facility on Brownsboro Road, resulting in additional runoff into Monarcas Creek.

Firefighters continued their efforts Saturday to suppress the still-smoldering remains of the fertilizer plant by spraying water on hot spots. A water-retention berm has been built at the site to capture the fire-suppression water before it runs into storm drains.

February 3, 2022

10:30 p.m.

The evacuation shelter at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds will close at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, February 4. 

9:10 p.m.

The City of Winston-Salem is sharing information on what to do when you return to your home after a chemical fire. The instructional sheet comes from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

6:40 p.m.

BREAKING: The evacuation order will be lifted at 8:00 p.m. tonight for the majority of those in the one-mile radius of Winston Weaver fertilizer plant. It will remain in effect for an area of 660 ft. from 4440 N. Cherry St.

6:05 p.m.

Residents who live in the one-mile evacuation zone of the fertilizer plant fire still don't have a timeline for when they can return home. City officials pledge to find resources to support them, but details are thin.

Many who live in the impacted area are people of color, primarily renters, and low-income. Some impacted residents took to social media during Thursday's press conference, saying their money for hotels and food is depleted, they're not sure where to turn for help, and also unsure how long they can stay with family and friends.

Winston Weaver Co. is giving the city $100,000, but city leaders are still figuring out how to get it into people's hands.

City Council Member and Mayor Pro-Tem D.D. Adams represents the North Ward where the plant is located.

“My job is to go find out what are the funding mechanisms that are in place at the local level, the county level, the state level, and the federal level to ensure that the constituents and businesses are compensated or something, or to help them become whole again,” said Adams.

The Red Cross is running the evacuation shelter, and working with community and government groups to offer additional assistance. The United Way of Forsyth County also released a list of local organizations that are working to help residents.

3:30 p.m.

Winston-Salem fire officials say the risk of an explosion at an ongoing fertilizer plant fire has diminished, but it's still unclear when evacuees can return to their homes. 

At a press conference this afternoon, Fire Chief Trey Mayo said it's still too early to make that call. 

“I would hate to say it because if I say it's going to be three o'clock or five o'clock or midnight then that's what people come to expect and I would rather plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he says. 

Mayo says the fire is still smoldering and crews are using thermal imagery to determine where the greatest risks are. 

He added that emissions from the area will ebb and flow as firefighting efforts continue. The Environmental Protection Agency is onsite doing live air monitoring to assess conditions. 

1:35 p.m.

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health, in conjunction with North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality's Division of Water Resources are issuing a precautionary advisory pending a water quality investigation for Monarcas Creek and downstream sections of Mill and Muddy Creeks from the Monarcas Creek at 4440 N Cherry St. to, and including, the Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A fire at 4440 N Cherry St. has potentially impacted Monarcas Creek due to runoff from the site from rainfall and firefighting efforts. There is currently an ongoing investigation to determine the extent of the impacts from this fire to the identified waterways. While this investigation is ongoing, the department is issuing a recreational water advisory for the section of Monarcas Creek and the downstream sections of Mill Creek, and Muddy Creek ending at the Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Monarcas Creek is the primary waterway impacted from the fire 4440 N Cherry St. Monarcas Creek flows into Mill Creek which eventually flows into Muddy Creek. If you notice any plumes, sheens, or fish kills in these waterways avoid coming into contact with these waters and report these conditions to 336-776-9800.

Until the water is tested and declared safe, environmental and public health officials recommend:

  • Avoid swimming, wading or fishing in this section of Muddy Creek until further notice.

  • Avoid skin contact with water, soil and sediment in or near the river.

  • If skin comes in contact with contaminated sediment or water, thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water.

  • If you are concerned that you, your family, and/or pets have been exposed to these waterways contact your healthcare provider or veterinarian.

For further information please contact the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch at 919-707-5910.

6:04 a.m.

Despite overnight rain, the fire at the Winston Weaver Fertilizer Plant continues and the risk of explosion remains.

At an early morning press briefing, Patrick Grubbs with the Winston-Salem Fire Department says the message is still the same and that those in the one-mile radius need to continue to stay away.

The one thing that has changed, he says, is the weather conditions. “The water on the fire is helping us; that is a good thing for us. The negative to the rain is that it kind of holds the smoke down closer to the ground. Again, it creates more respiratory problems for people who already have respiratory issues.”

The department had previously been using drones to monitor the fire, but due to the weather is currently doing some assessment at the scene from 300 feet away. WSFD does not currently have a projected return time for those evacuated.  

February 2, 2022

8:20 p.m.

Wake Forest University is canceling classes for the rest of the week at its Reynolda, Brookstown, and Wake Downtown campuses.

Just hours before, the school notified staff, faculty and students that classes would resume. According to information dispersed to the university community, Wake reversed its decision after hearing from students and families regarding the scope and degree of challenges faced by those displaced due to the evacuation.

The Reynolda Campus remains open, with offices operating and activities continuing at the discretion of event organizers. 

More than 1,000 students reside in the one-mile evacuation radius.

4:35 p.m.

A Forsyth County environmental official is sounding alarms about the air pollution resulting from the ongoing fire at the Winston Weaver fertilizer plant. 

Minor Barnette, the director of the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection, says the fire has released particles that pose particularly serious health risks. 

“They are microscopic droplets of reactive chemicals. And when a microscopic droplet that's that small is inhaled, it makes it all the way into the deepest part of our lungs, into the alveoli,” he says. “And it dissolves in the liquid of the lungs and can pass into the bloodstream. So, it can contribute to inflammation. And you know, heart attack and stroke and other negative outcomes for people.”

He says health impacts will vary depending on several factors, including underlying health conditions and the duration of exposure. 

“If you can see it, if you can smell it, you need to take evasive action,” says Barnette. “And if someone could smell it outside, but not inside then they should stay inside. If they start smelling it strongly inside their home or wherever they are, they need to relocate to a different place until it subsides.” 

Barnette says the smoke plume will shift depending on wind conditions. He expects that local air quality will be impacted until the fire is extinguished.

1:59 p.m. 

Fire officials say that the thousands of people who fled their Winston-Salem homes Monday due to a fertilizer plant fire should not return tonight, as initially expected. 

At a press conference this afternoon, Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo says the situation remains dangerous at the scene and there are too many variables to come up with an exact timeline as to when people can return. Initially, Mayo said the risk of an explosion would expire 36 hours from the start of the event. 

"We also talked about that 48 hours, that we may be in a situation to allow folks back into their homes and that is not going to happen. I don't think we're going to be there," says Mayo. 

Mayo also says the Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring air quality in the area. 

“What they're measuring is outside the one-mile radius and they are still primarily measuring nitrogen dioxide and some compounds of sulfur and some just general indescribable particulate matter,” he says. 

Mayo added exposure to these irritants could lead to coughing, sneezing, or skin irritation in some cases. Officials are continuing to advise people to avoid exercising outdoors and to remain indoors if they have respiratory illnesses. 

5:00 a.m.

Conditions at the Winston-Salem fertilizer plant have not improved overnight, although officials say that is to be expected. At a press conference early Wednesday morning, Winston-Salem Fire Division Chief Bobby Wade said that the potential for explosion still exists and the situation is still dangerous. They plan to keep the one-mile evacuation zone in effect as they continue to monitor the site, right now through drone operations. 

"It's unsafe for anyone to be on the site right now so there's no fire operations going on right now on-site until it's deemed safe to go in because of the products that are on-site that are burning," Wade said. 

He added the cooler temperatures overnight contributed to more low-lying smoke, which should lift as the temperatures warm throughout the day, and urged people — particularly those with respiratory issues — to avoid being outside. 



February 1, 2022

10:30 p.m.

Officials continue to urge the public to take the fertilizer plant fire, and evacuation requests seriously.

At a press conference Tuesday, Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo said an estimated 600 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate were housed at the site. He said that is more of the chemical than was present at a deadly blast at a 2013 Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people.

"I'm not nervous,” he said. “But I'll tell you that I've been in this business 33 years. And when I learned how much ammonium nitrate was on site last night, I felt as uneasy at a fire scene as I've ever felt in my 33 years in this business.”

About 6500 residents have been asked to evacuate their homes and a shelter has been set up for them at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.

9:00 p.m.

Wake Forest University is canceling classes again on Wednesday. The university had canceled Tuesday classes, and has opened a campus building for student and staff evacuees. The school says it made this decision out of an abundance of caution, and in response to the displacement of students, faculty, and staff living in the evacuation zone.

More than 1,000 students reside in the one-mile evacuation radius.

7:00 p.m.

The Winston-Salem Fire Department says it will be using Twitter to notify citizens of any developments in the fire at Winston Weaver. News briefings are expected at 4:30 am and 11:00 am Wednesday.

The City of Winston-Salem has posted instructions on how to register for its Citizen Notification System on social media. Based on information released at a press conference, the system only automatically notifies those with a landline. Residents who want to receive notices on their cell phones have to sign up.

4:24 p.m.

Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo gave an update Tuesday afternoon on the latest information on the Winston Weaver fertilizer plant fire. The fire has gotten smaller, but still is uncontrolled and the possibility of a major explosion remains until about 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning. 

Mayo added that the one-mile radius surrounding the plant is still in the path of danger and urged residents to avoid the area and that the evacuation zone would remain in effect for 48 hours. 

"We are not out of the woods. The fire is behaving as we would like for it to behave ... but we cannot write off the chance that there's a collapse in the pile, that it gets a fresh breath of air, and we have flaming combustion on the scale that we did last night," says Mayo. 

Mayo said the Environmental Protection Agency is on-site and they will broadcast air quality data back to the command post by midnight tonight. Mayo expects to release the hazardous materials team that is here from Greensboro at that time.



3:12 p.m. 

A statement from a staff member at Winston Weaver fertilizer plant was released by the city of Winston-Salem. 

"At approximately 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 31, our Winston Weaver fertilizer plant caught fire, and fire services of the city of Winston-Salem were immediately contacted and dispatched. There have been no injuries or loss of life to any employees, first responders, or citizens at this time. We are grateful for the outstanding, rapid work last night and the ongoing support from fire officials, as well as the volunteer services who have supported our employees and plant neighbors. We will continue working with first responders and relevant officials to ensure the safety of the community, and we will participate fully in the investigation into the cause of the fire."

1:45 p.m.

Air quality concerns are mounting as a massive fire at a Winston-Salem fertilizer plant continues to burn. 

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo explained that nitrous oxide is being released into the air as crews work to extinguish the ammonium nitrate blaze. 

“The threshold for immediate danger to life and health is 100 parts per million of nitrous oxide and they're measuring at about 65 parts per million. So we are not at an immediately dangerous to life and health threshold,” he said.

Mayo said the Environmental Protection Agency would be in the area today to monitor and assess the situation. He encouraged those with chronic respiratory conditions to stay indoors and advised all members of the public to avoid outdoor exercise. 

The view outside of WFDD studios on the campus of Wake Forest University. Neal Charnoff/WFDD

12:45 p.m.

As the fertilizer plant fire continues to burn in Winston-Salem, residents within a one-mile radius of the blaze — some 6,000 people — are being asked by officials to leave their homes over concerns of possible explosions. To accommodate them, a temporary evacuation shelter has been set at the Carolina Classic Fairgrounds.

The Education Building opened for evacuees on Monday night. Meals are provided for people from the affected neighborhood adjacent to the fire along with chairs, tables and restroom facilities. At its peak, there were nearly 30 visitors, and by 11:30 am Tuesday morning 14 remained. Those numbers are expected to fluctuate throughout the day with people coming and going as needed and attending to work responsibilities. 

The relief operation is being organized by the local Red Cross with six volunteers on site. Executive Director John Hughes says the situation is well under control.

“Well, it is certainly a very unusual situation, but these are the kinds of things that we plan for and prepare for all the time at Red Cross,” says Hughes. “I think people take it in stride. The folks who are here, of course, they would rather be at home or somewhere else. But we're doing everything we can to make it as comfortable as possible for them.”

Hughes suggests that those most affected by the smoke who want to get out of the poor air quality should plan to visit the evacuation shelter. He says he and his colleagues will remain there until they're told to stand down by emergency officials.

12:35 p.m.

Fire officials say a blaze at a Winston-Salem fertilizer plant poses an ongoing threat to people in the area and they are being warned to stay away.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area around Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant in the northern part of the city. The fire is so dangerous that firefighters have cleared the area and are letting it burn out on its own. 

At a morning press conference, Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo said there's about 600 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate at the plant in the direct line of the fire. Mayo says the potential risk of an explosion here will continue into Wednesday.

“We've got about a 36-hour window where that explosion potential exists, and we're about 14 hours into that, so less than halfway,” says Mayo.

The city fire department inspects the facility annually because of the potential safety risks that chemicals stored there pose. 

Mayo says the most recent inspection in December found that the chemicals were properly stored and no violations were found.

10:50 a.m.

Over 200 minimum-security inmates at Forsyth Correctional Center — which is in the one-mile evacuation zone — were moved overnight to a minimum-security facility in Taylorsville, about 60 miles from Winston-Salem.

John Bull, prisons communication officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, says they were transferred over a period of approximately three hours without incident. The inmates will remain at the Taylorsville facility until local emergency officials deem it safe to return to Forsyth Correctional Center.

10:05 a.m.

Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Hardison says that risks are lowered if the ammonium nitrate at the fertilizer plant is kept below 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The main area where the chemical compound is stored is currently smoldering, not burning. A frontline apparatus is keeping water flowing to the site.

Hardison says that the ammonium nitrate temperature must be lowered enough to where it is no longer off-gassing and creating an explosive hazard before firefighters can return.

9:25 a.m.

At a press conference, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines expressed concerns about noxious air and fumes, and indicated that the evacuation will likely stay in place for a while.

Fire Chief Trey Mayo said that a helicopter from state highway patrol will be soon taking a reconnaissance flight, and drones will be flown on the hour.

Mayo says we're not out of the woods for the possibility of explosion, as there is a 36 hour window — we're 14 hours in.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to arrive later this morning with additional air monitoring equipment. Monitoring is happening outside the one-mile radius. Right now readings indicate around 65 million parts per million of nitrous oxide — the threshold limit is 100 parts. Those with compromised respiratory conditions are asked to stay indoors.

It is estimated that 600 tons of ammonium nitrate are on the site.

5:32 a.m.

The Winston-Salem Fire Department gave an update at 4:30 a.m. Officials say the fire at the Weaver Fertilizer Plant is still active and there is still a potential for explosion. They are urging residents in a one-mile radius to evacuate and are going door-to-door in some cases in order to get the message out. Approximately 6,500 people live in the evacuation area. They are assessing the scene every 15 to 20 minutes using drone teams from Winston-Salem Emergency Management, Greensboro Fire Department and Lewisville Fire Department. WSFD says that as the sun comes up there will be smoke in the air and poor air quality. They advise against strenuous outdoor activity and ask that individuals only call 911 if they are experiencing an emergency.

12:45 a.m.

Fire officials are continuing to urge residents within a one-mile radius of the fertilizer plant fire to evacuate, adding that there could be a major explosion.

In a video shared on the city's Facebook page, Fire Chief Trey Mayo said a similar fire at a fertilizer plant in Texas in 2013 resulted in an explosion that killed 15 people and destroyed 150 buildings. 

“I just wanted to convey the gravity of this situation,” said Mayo. “There could be almost three times that much ammonium nitrate in this facility on North Cherry Street.”

Officials say small explosions have already been reported at the plant. 

“We know what this stuff can do,” said Mayo. “And people need to take this seriously. This is not you know ‘oh, well something might happen.' Something has happened.” 

Evacuations of the area within a one-mile radius of the site are ongoing. Residents are being told to prepare to be away from home for 48 hours.  Winston-Salem Communications Director Ed McNeil says a prison is located within the evacuation zone. 

“The Division of Prisons is working to address their presence inside of that space. And so that is being handled. Our focus at this point is on the residential and business.”

Wake Forest University has canceled classes for Tuesday and is offering shelter to students living in the evacuation zone.

January 31, 2022

11:30 p.m. 

An evacuation location has been established at the Education Building at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds at 414 Deacon Blvd.

11:10 p.m.

A massive fire burning at a Winston-Salem fertilizer plant has prompted an evacuation of residents in the surrounding area. 

Fire crews began fighting the blaze at Weaver Fertilizer Plant at 4440 North Cherry Street around 7 p.m. Monday. They were later told to move away from the area due to the risk of an explosion. Officials say a large amount of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical compound, was stored at the plant, which has collapsed.

In a video shared to Twitter, Fire Chief Trey Mayo said crews could not keep the facility cool enough to be “reasonably certain” that they could “prevent a detonation.”

Emergency responders are evacuating residents within a one-mile radius of the blaze and advising drivers to steer clear of the scene. Officials are advising residents to plan to be away from their homes for 48 hours. 

No injuries have been reported.  

This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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