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'It's very unpredictable' | Part of Main Oak building in downtown Mount Airy collapses

Crews were working all day Tuesday to access the damage and secure the historic building.

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — A portion of the Main Oak building in downtown Mount Airy collapsed Tuesday.

Fire officials said the department received a call regarding the collapse early Tuesday morning at the building. Fire, police department, Duke Energy, and building inspectors were out Tuesday working to try to secure the building. 

Mt. Airy Assistant Fire Chief Chris Fallow said Tuesday they were working to bring the front facade of the building down to a safe level so it would not fall and damage other buildings on Main Street. Demolition crews were on scene as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"If that building collapses it very well (ould0 pull the other buildings (or) the parts (of) the other buildings (down)," said Fallow.

The Main Oak building was built in the 1800s or early 1900s, according to Fallow. 

"Most of the time these older buildings when they fail, they just have (a) catastrophic failure, they just fail," said Fallow. "The newer construction has a little bit more twist and give to it like, your skyscrapers are made to twist and flex. So it is a different animal when you’re dealing with this."

Power, gas, and other utilities had been shut off in the surrounding buildings and they were also evacuated. Traffic signals and street lights were also removed to help with the work.

Crews plan to put up temporary construction fencing around the site and are asking people to avoid the area. Fallow said they were concerned severe weather Tuesday might bring the building down.

"If this thing falls, the debris field is going to fly out everywhere you're going to have bricks and mortar (...) flying out in all directions," Fallow said. "It’s very unpredictable."

The building was in the process of being refurbished into apartments, Fallow said. He was just in the building four to five months ago with architects and said everything seemed fine. 

News 2 has reached out to Surry County officials to get more information on the building's latest inspection. 

Visitors and residents of Mt. Airy stopped Tuesday to get a look at the building. The town is a popular tourist destination, particularly for its connection to Andy Griffith. 

"It was just unbelievable," said Debbie Masi, who comes to Mt. Airy several times a year. "We were here to stay weeks ago with friends who just moved here in April from up north and everything was fine and you see this and it’s like a shock."

Masi said the building is a landmark in town so it's shocking to see it in pieces.

"When you hear (about it, you think it) could’ve just (been) a few bricks could’ve got loose, but not to this capacity," Masi said. 

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