Prior to the raging inferno at 4440 N. Cherry, my social media feed was dominated by Ukraine/Russia hysteria and Tom Bradey speculation. I first started seeing images of the massive Weaver Fertilizer fire in my social media feed on Monday evening. As the evening progressed, it became evident that the city had a major fire and potential disaster on its hands. So far, there have not been any reports of serious injuries. But an estimated 6500 people living within one mile of the Weaver Fertilizer facility at 4440 N. Cherry Street have been evacuated. The City of Winston-Salem has opened the W-S Fairground’s education building as an emergency shelter. The Forsyth Correctional Facility on North Point has been evacuated. February 1 classes at nearby North Hills Elementary were canceled, as were classes at Wake Forest University.
The question remains, why was Weaver Fertilizer allowed to operate so close to residential neighborhoods? And why were they allowed to store such an ungodly amount of ammonium nitrate on-site? According to Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President Allen Joines, Weaver had ten times the amount of ammonium nitrate on site that the West Fertilizer had in West Texas back in 2013. Weaver has been operating a fertilizer business on North Cherry for decades (since 1939, according to property records). Did the city and state officials allow a potential disaster to be grandfathered in? Weaver’s warehouses were built several decades ago and appear not to have been equipped with basic fire suppression technology. A glance at Weaver’s property records shows that Weaver’s warehouses storing a powder keg of fertilizer didn’t even have sprinklers. More research needs to be done on the state of Weaver Fertilizer before January 31, 2022.
Though Wake Forest is just a mile and a half from Weaver Fertilizer, it’s the majority Black neighborhoods on Cherry, Indiana, and North Point that are on the frontline of the Weaver fire. It’s no accident that these are the communities affected, just like it’s no accident that Weaver Fertilizer is on the northeast side of Wake Forest and not on the posh, western side of WFU’s Reynolda campus. This is textbook environmental racism. Zoning presidents dating back to the Jim Crow era dictate that Weaver Fertilizer can operate in a Black neighborhood on North Cherry, but not in majority-white and well-heeled Reynolda.
In 2015, seven years ago, WS/FC Schools closed Hanes/Lowrance on Indiana Avenue due to fears of contaminants from a shuttered toxic chemical facility across the street from the school. Hanes/Lowrance is a 2.5-mile drive on Indiana Avenue from Weaver Fertilizer. Indiana Avenue is the heart of the city’s urban core with several legacy industrial brownfield sites like Weaver and Kaba chemical. It’s so close to Wake Forest, but it’s far removed from Wake’s wealth. Arika Herron and Bertrand M. Gutierrez’s award-winning series on Hanes/Lowrance was titled “Toxic Legacy.” The series is worth rereading. Winston’s greatest period of economic growth was the 1920s. Those boom times are long gone, but the industrial pollution sites remain-disproportionately in East Winston. This is a huge problem in Winston that has largely been ignored.
PowerPoint Presentation Hanes-Lowrance
Google Drive Link
Allen Joines and his Wake Forest-connected Winston-Salem Alliance spearheaded the restoration and environmental remediation of the Innovation Quarter and, more recently, ‘Industry Hill.’ But the Mayor and his Alliance have ignored large sections of North Patterson, Indiana Avenue, and North Cherry; Black communities that expose Joines’ campaign slogan, “one city, working together,” as hollow rhetoric.
“What I know is that the health and vitality of Winston-Salem will not be measured by the quality of life in just a few neighborhoods, but by every neighborhood in every corner of our city. We all need a safe place to live, the opportunity for good employment and an environment that nurtures good health, not diminishes it.” –Allen Joines, November 2015
And guess what neighborhoods surround this plant? Just guess. https://t.co/kjElrXVdCN
— E (@LeVyanBelle) February 1, 2022
The City of Winston-Salem asked residents to evacuate within a one-mile radius of 4440 N. Cherry.
- Colony Apartments, 4200 Brownsboro Rd (0.6 miles)
- Enclave at North Point, 4260 Brownsboro Rd (0.7 miles)
- Pinnacle At Brownsboro, 4260 Brownsboro Rd (0.9 miles)
- Vivo Apartments WSNC, 7835 North Point (1 mile)
- Villages at Wake Forest Student Housing, 961 Palm Dr (1.3 miles)
- The View at 5010, 5010 Split Rail Cir (1.6 miles)
- Brandemere Apartment Homes, 7013 Brandemere Ln (1.6 miles)
- Deacon Place, 2410 Whicker Acres Ln (1.6 miles)
- Alaris Village Apartments, 5003 Winster Dr (2.1 miles)
- The Pines at Bethabara, 511 Bethabara Hills Ct (2.2 miles)
- Forsyth Correctional Center, 307 Craft Dr. (0.6 miles)
- North Hills Elementary School, 340 Alspaugh Dr. (1.1 miles)
- Wake Forest University, 1834 Wake Forest Road (1.5 miles)
Reminder: Winston-Salem has a serious affordable housing crisis, and officials would have a difficult time permanently relocating 65 residents, much less the 6500 residents living within a mile from 4440 N. Cherry Street.