Fire Destroys Large Part of Mississippi Furniture Plant

Tired firefighters worked Wednesday to eliminate hot spots after portions of the sprawling American Furniture Manufacturing plant in Mississippi’s Pontotoc County were destroyed by a major blaze.

The 1.2 million-square-foot facility, located about a mile out of Ecru, Miss., emplys some 1,100 workers.

Ecru Mayor Tom Todd said Wednesday, firefighters were able to save both ends (of the plant) but all of the middle part of the building has collapsed or is leaning in.

The fire appeared to have started in a warehouse portion of the plant about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and swept through offices and Plant No. 1, officials said.

Several fire departments from the area had battled the blaze for hours.

“This building is pretty much going to be a loss. At least half of the building is gone already and it’s still burning,” Sheriff Neal Davis said Tuesday.

While no injuries were reported, Davis, Todd and others said the major concern was jobs. The plant had attracted workers from several communities in the area.

“This is a terrible blow for Pontotoc County and for the furniture industry as a whole,” said Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association and operator of a furniture supply business in Pontotoc.

Firefighters had to deal with more than the flames.

“You also have a lot of toxic fumes that could be in the air, too,” Pruett said.

Pruett said MFA members planned meetings to determine how best to help American’s workers, who had produced upholstered furniture. Bill Cleveland, president of the Tupelo Furniture Market, said he, too, would do what he could to help.

“The furniture industry is a big family, and while there’s a lot of competition, we know when to come together,” he said. “This is one of those times.”

Todd said officials hoped American management would act quickly to get workers back in jobs. He said there were vacant or new buildings in the area that could be used for production until a decision is made on rebuilding.

American Furniture Manufacturing makes upholstered home furnishings including sofas, chairs, and recliners. The company distributes products to most major furniture stores in the United States and Canada.

The company has grown from 100 employees to 1,100 in a decade. The privately held company, founded in 1998, was bought in 2004 by Hunt Private Equity Group and Hampshire Equity Partners, which invested some $70 million in the company.