Bassett Furniture’s fire destroyed more than just a building

A new blaze erupts Saturday in the charred and twisted remains
A new blaze erupts Saturday in the charred and twisted remains

Carlie Boyd retired from Bassett Furniture Company in 1998 after working there all his life.  It was his life, he says, and watching a lingering fire from the inferno that destroyed the Bassett Superior Lines Building breaks his heart.

Carlie Boyd: "It breaks my heart."

“It breaks my heart every time I come down here,” he said Saturday afternoon as a new blaze erupted amid the ruins of the building along a road lined with warehouses and other parts of what was once declared “the largest furniture manufacturer in the world.”

Boyd’s heart was broken long the blaze erupted this past week.  It started breaking when the plant started cutting back and shifting jobs overseas years ago.

“I come down here near every day and I just stand and look at it and remember what it used to be,” he says.

The blaze destroyed a building that was being torn down as part of a promised “renovation” project in Bassett, the town where furniture was king and those who worked for the sprawling furniture factory lived well on good wages and plenty of overtime.

Boyd wears a cowboy hat with a Bassett Furniture pin and sports a huge western-style belt buckle.  He proudly shows a furniture company medal issued on the 70th anniversary of the company’s founding in 1902.

Boyd called 911 Thursday when he saw the building burning.  At first, he said, the operator didn’t believe him.  The fire department let the building burn rather than risk the safety of firefighters on a building that was being demolished anyway.

Boyd thinks a cutting torch used to slice up the huge girders in the structure sent a shower of sparks into something flammable.

“Up on the second floor was the treatment room,” he said.  “The floor there had a log of finish on it.”

The building also had a lot of asbestos, he said.

As the new blaze intensified, cars driving by slowed.  Some stopped and gawkers emerged.

One asked: “Anybody call it in?”

“What’s the use,” Boyd said. “They’ll just stand around and watch it burn.”

Steel girders twisted from the heat of the fire

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse