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'We're not at the end of this yet:' Gov. Cooper urges evacuations near Winston-Salem factory fire

"We're relying on local officials who are on the ground, who have all the information. If they ask us for things, we will provide them," Gov. Cooper said.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday the state is ready to provide Winston-Salem officials with whatever resources they need to fight a massive fertilizer factory fire. 

Winston-Salem fire officials the Weaver Fertilizer Plant is still at risk of exploding and evacuees won't be back in their homes by Wednesday night. 

"Too much product, too many unknowns," Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo said. Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate - a chemical used to make fertilizer - are inside the plant. 

Mayo and other leaders still strongly urge people who live within a mile of the plant to leave the area. He said a mandatory evacuation order just isn't likely, because of the logistics needed to make it happen. 

"The reality of a mandatory evacuation -- it's difficult to carry it out on the ground...the staffing level, the manpower it takes to put into that," Mayo said. 

Mayo said local leaders are trying to make the best decisions they can, based on the information they have. 

Cooper said the state will take "whatever steps are necessary" to help Winston-Salem officials with what they need. 

"We're relying on local officials who are on the ground, who have all the information. If they ask us for things, we will provide them. Usually, a state of emergency helps with transportation and those kinds of things and I don't think we're facing those issues at this point," Cooper said.

Cooper said those who haven't evacuated yet should do so.

"I would ask them to evacuate. In fact, they put other people at risk when they refuse to evacuate. I talked to some emergency personnel, who had already gone to make some service alls to people who were sick or ill - they had to risk themselves going into that one-mile radius to bring them out," Cooper said. 

The Weaver fire has drawn national attention and comparisons to similar plant fires in the past. 

Chief Mayo said the Weaver fire involves three times as much ammonium nitrate as the deadly West, Texas fertilizer factory explosion of 2013. He said he hopes that is reason enough for people to leave the area near the Winston-Salem plant. 

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