UTM students who call Lauderdale County home were astonished when the county’s former Tupperware plastics factory, located in Halls, caught fire about 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.
Halls Mayor Trent McManus said five employees evacuated the factory when the largest of the plant’s three buildings caught fire at the loading dock doors. The fire spread over halfway through to the far end of the building.
“Because there are plastics burning inside the building, we don’t expect the fire to be out completely for another two days — until firefighters can begin extinguishing the blazes with foam, which should arrive tomorrow,” McManus said Sunday night. “We’re just grateful that there have been no injuries.”
Surrounding streets and roads, including those off U.S. 51 South leading east to the plant, were blocked off by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Meanwhile, the Halls Fire Department and 10 neighboring county fire departments continued to fight to contain the fire.
“We’re working around the clock rotating firefighters from all over,” said Newbern City Fire Chief Phillip Cottrell. “We’re glad to help.”
Halls Police Chief Rod Ward said he appreciates the work of all emergency personnel who responded, including all the fire and police departments currently assisting in efforts to put out the fire. Ward also said TEMA has been a big help in delegating appropriate jobs to authorities and volunteers.
Halls residents said they are disappointed to see the building destroyed.
A senior Accounting major from Halls, Alicia Gooch, said, “The building was built in 1970, way before I was born, and was always known as Tupperware, even after the factory shut its doors in the early 90s. I know it was a major source of employment for Lauderdale County in the 70s and 80s.”
Lamar Stenson, a senior Communications major from Halls, said, “It’s sad to see the oldest manufacturing plant in the Halls community gone. My mother worked at Tupperware for 21 years. I know the building had economical potential.”
McManus said that the factory employed only a few people at the time of Saturday’s fire and that the building was primarily being used for storing plastics, cardboard and other boxing materials and supplies.
McManus said that the city of Halls had high hopes that another factory would come in soon and occupy the building, thus bringing employment to Lauderdale County.
“It’s a great loss for both the city of Halls and Lauderdale County,” McManus said.
Lauderdale County officials said they do not know what sparked the weekend fire that destroyed the historic building, but that a thorough investigation will be conducted.