LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Three days after the inferno that raged through nearly a full city block of the old Dixie Furniture Plant 1, smoke still trickles from the rubble.
The Lexington Fire Department firefighters who were on duty when the fire started Tuesday came back to work for the first time Friday morning after their normal 48-hour break.
As they began their new shift with normal duties, they couldn’t help but recall the moments before the biggest call of their lives.
At Station 1 the crew had just sat down to eat.
At Station 2 chicken was on the grill.
Engine 1 from Station 1 was the first truck to roll with Colton Hedrick and Eric Skeen on board.
“Me being the firefighter, I was geared up ready to go and he made the call on the radio there was fire showing and it was pedal to the metal after that,” Hedrick said.
The truck from Station 2 arrived soon after with Candice Lockhart, who has a full 10 months of firefighting under her belt.
“I never pictured anything like that,” she said.
Engine 1 positioned near the smokestack with the word "Dixie" down the side. They were tasked with its protection. Hedrick took that personally.
“That stack means a lot to me because my grandpa worked there for 30 years, he retired from there, that plant,” Hedrick said.
His granpa lives nearby and watched the building burn. Lockhart’s family watched via images on TV and social media.
“Granny hates it. Mom, she doesn’t really say much about it. They knew I was there but they didn’t know what exactly I was doing or if I was OK,” Lockhart said.
They were all OK. No one was injured. But the adrenaline that fueled their efforts began to run short early into Wednesday morning.
“After about an hour it was all adrenaline, so after about 2:30 or 3 o’clock the adrenaline was starting to wear off, you was getting sore,” Hedrick said. “But you don’t want to stop, you just want to keep doing what you got to do to accomplish the job you set out to do.”
Behind their effort was the community. Several restaurants around town brought food and drinks. The local grocery stores pitched in too.
“We may not have actually got to sit down but just having that food meant a lot and helped us recharge our batteries a little bit,” Hedrick said.