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SALISBURY, N.C. -- A massive fire erupted from the basement at a funeral home in Salisbury Friday afternoon.

The fire broke out at the Lyerly Funeral Home located at 515 South Main Street just off Interstate 85 around 12:20 p.m.

Officials said the owner of the funeral home turned up the heat in the basement before leaving for lunch. A few moments later, two employees working at the home smelled a gas odor and quickly realized that a fire had started in the basement of the home.

Officials say 50 firefighters and 50 support staff responded on the ground at the building, and 17 different fire departments were called to the scene.

I had just cut the heat on to warm it up, said funeral director Brent Lyerly. It's just something I never dreamed would happen. I will find us a place temporarily and (we'll) rebuild, we'll go forward.

Fire officials said they had to pull firefighters out of the home after the structure became too unsafe.

The firefighters did a heck of a job--best they could for the first 15 minutes, said Salisbury Fire Chief Rob Parnell. There was a tremendous amount of smoke (and we) couldn't see where they were. For their safety, we pulled out.

An apartment complex near the scene of the funeral home was evacuated for precautionary reasons, fire officials said.

The home was preparing two bodies for funerals this weekend but those were lost in the fire, according to Lyerly.

I've been in contact with families. They've been super, Lyerly added.

There are no reported injuries from the funeral home that has been a Salisbury staple since 1957.

Today is Friday the 13th. Guess that's what it was, said Lyerly.

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