Cottonseed warehouse still burning in Valley Park

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2000

A Valley Park firefighter sprays water onto a trailer filled with cotton while the Multigraphic Industries cottonseed warehouse on U.S. 61 at Valley Park burns in the background. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

VALLEY PARK A cottonseed warehouse in Valley Park continued to smolder this morning, a day after a fire shot flames about 40 feet into the air and sent smoke across miles of the South Delta.

Firefighters said they expect the fire at Multigraphic Industries on U.S. 61 to keep burning for several days.

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Volunteers from five departments in area counties showed up around noon to battle the blaze, but they were soon reduced to holding the line.

“We’re in a defensive mode,” said Warren County Fire Coordinator Kelly Worthy, briefing a volunteer arriving on the scene around 2 p.m. “When it gets to us, we’re just going to try to handle it.”

As he spoke, the metal building continued to bow in like a circus tent with the ropes cut, and billowing black smoke blocked out the sun.

“There ain’t enough water in the river to put it out,” he said.

So instead, firefighters borrowed a tractor to mow down the tall grass in a wide circle around the inferno to limit the possibility of a wildfire.

While evacuation was initially considered because of smoke, wind direction and other factors made that unnecessary, Worthy said.

“The good Lord was with us, and the smoke was blowing away from the highway and the houses,” he said. “If the wind had changed direction, we could have had to evacuate.”

The warehouse is on the west side of the highway, across from most of Valley Park’s homes, and smoke could be seen four miles south on U.S. 61 and as far north as Anguilla.

L.W. “Bump” Callaway, Warren County’ emergency management officer, said the cottonseed was combined with paper at the facility to make a chemically treated product referred to as “kitty litter,” used to soak up oil spills.

A trailer packed with the product, which was backed up against the loading dock when the fire began, also caught fire, and firefighters moved the trailer away from the building and hacked through the trailer to douse the flammable material with water.

The material was packed so tightly that the water from the hoses was unable to penetrate it and stop the smoldering, Worthy said. So it, too, was eventually allowed to burn itself out.

A group of employees nearby said they had been on their lunch break when they heard an explosion in the warehouse.

Worthy said he heard that a sewing machine used to make bags for the product had ignited, but it would be several days before anyone could get into the building to investigate.

Firefighters from Culkin, Northeast Warren County, Valley Park, Rolling Fork and Bovina volunteer fire departments assisted in containing the fire.