40 years has passed since National Spinning fire

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Forty years ago today, September 7, four men lost their lives in a tragic fire at National Spinning Co. Inc.’s dye plant in Washington. Their names were James Harris, 26, of Chocowinity; Gregory Matthew Lamm, 22 of Chocowinity, Asa Travis Squires, 39, of Washington and Jesse Moye Woolard Jr., 25, of Washington. 

Terry Woolard was rescued from the fire. He was the sole survivor of the fire. He was found unconscious near an office outside the fire and was revived. 

It is believed the men were part of a fire brigade who attempted to extinguish a fire that started at around midnight at the back of the National Spinning complex. They perished from smoke inhalation. 

Per an article published by the Daily News in 1982, the fire was contained to the 40-by-40-by-40 foot craft winding department which was located at the back of the complex. The plant’s sprinkler system went on shortly after the fire started. Three fire departments – Washington, Bunyan and old Ford spent more than four hours trying to sequester the flames. 

Virginia Squires, widow of Asa T. Squires shared with the Daily News what she knew of how the fire might have started. She was told the fire began from a wire that sparked above a container of yarn. Smoke “mushroomed” around the building making it difficult to breath then locate and extinguish the fire. 

Despite there not being a memorial in Washington, all five men’s bravery was honored on Oct. 16, 1983 during a service at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Then on May 6, 2006 the men were honored during a service in Raleigh by the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Two American flags were flown in their honor – one in Emmitsburg and the other in Raleigh over the state capitol building on the aforementioned dates. 

Jim Booterbaugh, president and Chief Executive Officer at National Spinning, said though he and most of those who currently work at the plant are far removed in years from the fire, he regrets the loss of life of any family member or loved one who is lost too soon.