UPDATE: Cleveland Fire Department battles large abandoned factor - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Cleveland Fire Department battles large abandoned factory fire

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Several homes were evacuated after a vacant factory caught fire in Cleveland this morning.

Officials say the fire was reported around 4:30 a.m. at the American Research and Knitting building on 6th Street. Though, Fire Chief Ron Harrison said the initial call was regarding smoke in the area.

When fire crews arrived, the factory was completely engulfed in flames.

The Cleveland Fire  Department called Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department for mutual aid.

"Our priorities were to keep this fire from extending to the nearby homes and the Woolen Mill just to the north of it," Harrison said. "Probably about 40 percent of the southern most aspect of the building had vented through the roof, so a large volume of fire."

But because of the heat and proximity, a portion of the mill caught fire as well. Though, firefighters were able to put it out quickly and focus on the massive factory fire, which raised several safety concerns.

"It has a basement and it was as I said fully engulfed when we arrived. There was extensive damage, so we had some concern putting interior crews in until we [could] determine the extent of damage to the first floor," Harrison said.

Rogelio Rodriguez, who lives next to the factory, said he smelled a strong smoke smell, but didn't think anything of it until he got a knock at his door.

"My neighbor, came knocking on my doors and stuff, told me there was a fire and to get out and move the cars across the street," Rodriguez said.

A short time later, a command post was set up in the area, as Rodriguez and other neighbors were evacuated due to the fire.

Dispatch confirms to Channel 3 that a few people were able to return to their homes on Church St. around 7:00 a.m.

But when Rodriguez returned to his home he noticed something was wrong.

"When they told us we can come back into the house and check everything that's when I noticed the windows were cracked," Rodriguez said.

Harrison says the damage is often expected because of radiant heat.

"There can be intense radiant heat," Harrison said. "It can break windows. It can melt siding and things like that, but we put crews in place initially to protect those exposures"

The only thing crews couldn't control were the clouds of smoke from the fire hovering over nearby homes.

"I try not breath in or anything else...I cut my air off and everything else so the air wouldn't roll in, and just shut my door and try to put air freshner; try to clean it up," Rodriguez said.

But despite the damage and heavy smoke, Rodriguez said looking back at the morning blaze he's thankful the fire is out and that he made it out of his home safely.

"Who knows what could've happened if my neighbors didn't wake me up or come knock on my door. I could've still been in there with the smoke and everything else."

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

This is a developing story. Stick with Channel 3 for the latest developments.

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