Details were scarce initially, but Canton Fire Chief Tim Carver said at 12:45 p.m. that a structure fire within the mill was ongoing, and that various first responders were being brought in to address it. Carver also said he wasn’t aware of any injuries or casualties associated with the fire at that time.
Around 3:30 p.m., Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers was able to reassure workers and their families that the situation had been brought under control.
“This morning I was contacted and informed that there was a fire in Evergreen Packaging. As a precaution the Canton Fire Department and a number of volunteer departments responded in a timely and effective manner and I’m happy to report that the fire is contained, with no loss of life occurring. I do not know all the details and the investigation is ongoing. Evergreen is a private company and is dealing with it in an internal fashion,” Smathers said.
The incident never rose to the level of necessitating evacuations of citizens or businesses outside of Evergreen's sprawling facility, according to Smathers.
“I attribute that to chief Canton Fire Chief Tim Carver and the chiefs of the volunteer departments – not just from Haywood but other counties also,” he said. “This is what they train for, and I have no doubt that because of their training and response, along with internal action by Evergreen, this dangerous situation could have been much worse across the board.”
Smathers said he was not aware of any risk to hazardous chemicals that are stored on site.
This latest incident comes on the heels of another fire at the plant in late September, 2020 during which two contract workers performing maintenance work on a tank were killed.
The century-old mill sits in the heart of Canton, as well as in the heart of Haywood County’s economy. More than a thousand workers are employed there, making it one of the county’s largest employers.