Cotton bales burning in Wilson

Reported by: Rebecca Rivers
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Updated: 1/21/2014 9:37 am
If there is a fire where cotton bales are being housed, then you've got troubles.
A cotton warehouse in the Wilson community is burning.
It's a haphazard of the cotton ginning industry that most certainly has a devastating effect.
When fire combusts in a cotton storage facility, it's a hopeless situation. Basically it can't be extinguished.

The Fiber Brite, Ltd mote plant in Wilson processes roughly 50,000 bales of cotton a year. And one third of their inventory went up in flames.

"Apparently we had a hot bale come in, it started a fire on the outside. They were unable to contain that fire, it got to the inside of the building, and it was all over when that happened," said Mike Tomlinson, General Manager Fiber Brite, Ltd.

"Any little spark will set cotton off. Probably a hot bale that came in from another gin. It can sit in there for a long time before they actually combust. This mote plant, it's real bad because of the volume of cotton that is piled up,"  said Craig Wilkey, Chief of the Wilson Volunteer Fire Department.

The Wilson Volunteer Fire Department was the first to respond to the 5:00 a.m. emergency call.
Three additional volunteer departments from surrounding communities assisted.

"We can't afford to keep a full time fire department going, so we all just volunteer," Wilkey said. "We're farmers, we've got all kinds of people. We just drop what we're doing whenever there is a need in the community. We're just here to help the community out. We've got three units here, he had units from O'Donnell, Slaton, and Tahoka show up. We had a big crew."

Tomlinson said that he's more than thankful that no one was hurt in the fire.
However, the economic impact on the company and its employees will be long lasting.

"This is one third of our year that just went up in smoke, so it's a big time hurt," Tomlinson said. "We probably lost a couple months worth of processing in this fire." 

Fiber Brite will now end its processing season about two months earlier than anticipated.
That means less work for plant employees, less tax revenue for the community and county, and less cotton to move down the line.

"Motes are a by-product from the cotton gin. Actually it's trash from the cotton gin but there's quite a bit of usable cotton or fiber still left in that mote trash, so we have a plant with specialized machinery that is able to clean all of that, and we produce full size bales of usable cotton," Tomlinson said.

The volunteer fire departments have been able to keep the fire from spreading to two other warehouses as well as the main office and processing facility.

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