Early morning fire damages building, bin at bark processor

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An early Monday morning bark fire was a close call for PhillipsBark Processing Plant, officials said.

Jeff Phillips said while bark fires are not an uncommonoccurrence, happening about once every three years or so, but thatMonday’s, which happened around 3 to 4 a.m., was more urgentbecause one of the buildings was endangered.

“It’s never actually been in that bin, it’s usually in thelarger piles away from the buildings,” Phillips said. “It scorchedthe back of that building and burned some of the paint off.”

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Brookhaven Fire Department Shift Captain Randy Sykes said whilethe fire wasn’t terribly large, the fact that it was burning fromthe inside of the pile made it hard to put it out thoroughly.

“It burns down deep in there, and a pile of that stuff will burnfor a week,” he said. “The biggest danger is that it could havedone a lot more damage to that building.”

Sykes said the reason the piles burn is similar to the reasonsawdust and hay will smolder from the inside.

“Those green chips go through heat when they’re breaking down,like hay,” he said, saying that it makes it necessary to spread thebark out in order to get the fire completely extinguished.

A backhoe was enlisted at the scene to spread the bark so BFDand Heuck’s Retreat Volunteer Fire Department could extinguish theblaze.

Heuck’s Retreat Chief Scott Etheridge said with any fire thatoccurs at a plant or factory where things are produced, there isalways a danger because chemicals are involved.

“That’s what worries you about something like this, is that youdon’t know what’s in there that could burn,” he said, indicatingthe building that sustained the damage.

Phillips said it was an alert truck driver who noticed the burnand called 911.

“He usually leaves out around 3 a.m., and he noticed the fireand called 911, then they called me,” Phillips said, pointing outthat if that truck driver hadn’t been paying attention, he couldhave had a lot more damage on his hands.

As it stands, Phillips said, there was damage to the bin thebark was held in, as well as some burned timbers and the paintburned off places on the building.

“There was also about a truckload of material, but that’s notthe end of the world,” he said.

Phillips said there will be some repairs to make, but that hewas grateful to the fire departments for keeping the damage to aminimum.

“The main thing I want to say is that we just thank the firedepartments for their efforts,” he said. “If we couldn’t sayanything else, that’s the main thing we’d want to get across.”

Heuck’s Retreat EMS coordinator John Riggs, who drove the tankerto the scene, said his department was glad to help BFD with thewater supply.

“They help us on all the wrecks where there is entrapment, andhave helped us with so many other things,” he said. “We’re justhappy we were able to assist in this case.”