On May 25th, 1979, Lieutenant George Magness, along with three other Shelby firefighters and a city gas utility worker were killed in the line of duty during a fire in Uptown Shelby on West Warren Street. The fire originated in a storefront business, spread throughout the row of tenant spaces and threatened to consume the entire city block. During the fire, an explosion inside triggered a massive collapse of the building killing the five, and injuring twelve other firefighters. Additionally, over thirty that had gathered at the scene of the fire were injured. Killed in the line of duty along with Lieutenant George Magness were Firefighter Nathan Hall, Firefighter Donald “Gene” Melton, Firefighter Floyd “Nick” Sharts, and city gas worker Max Bowling. It was later determined that the fire was arson. The Shelby fire is largest single event line-of-duty death of firefighters in North Carolina.