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‘We had several maydays': N.C. firefighters trapped during rescues at blaze

Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said firefighters rescued 15 workers and had to call for help themselves during the construction site fire


Firefighters work the scene of a massive fire spread across at least two structures and threatened others in Charlotte’s South Park neighborhood, North Carolina, Thursday morning, May 18, 2023.

Khadejh Nikouyeh/The Charlotte Observer via AP

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two construction workers were still unaccounted for late Thursday after a massive, fast-moving fire broke out at a North Carolina construction site earlier in the day, the city’s fire chief said.

Fifteen workers, including a crane operator, were rescued by the more than 90 firefighters called to the five-alarm blaze in the South Park neighborhood of Charlotte just after 9 a.m., Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said at a news conference. The crane operator was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, Johnson said. Two workers were unaccounted for according to the construction foreman, the chief said.

The fire moved rapidly, and as crews worked to rescue all of the construction workers in the building, firefighters got trapped on two occasions and had to be rescued by fellow firefighters, Johnson said.

“The men and women of this department put themselves in harm’s way and actually had to call for assistance themselves to get out of this fire. That’s how fast it was moving,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of the work that we’ve done here.”

Images from the scene showed tall flames and a yellow crane could be seen amid huge clouds of smoke. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department tweeted a request for people not to call 911 except in an emergency while the fire department battles the blaze.

Investigators on the scene will determine the cause of the fire, Johnson said.