Employees Contain Cotton Gin Fire

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Shortly after 5:00 am Tuesday, a fire threatened to damage the Wiregrass Cotton Gin Company in Taylor.

The first one started Monday afternoon and re-ignited before dawn.

Employees say this isn't out of the norm, they say fires are a common occurrence at cotton gins.

Thick, black smoke filled the pre-dawn Taylor sky Tuesday.

“None of the homes are in danger. The only thing they're in danger of is heavy smoke,” said Taylor Volunteer Firefighter.

Wiregrass Cotton Gin employees were able to contain the blaze before fire crews arrived.

“We have so many fire extinguishers and hoses on site that we can put it out pretty quickly,” said General Manager Allen Barrentine.

Dana Watts has worked with Taylor Volunteer Fire Department for 2-decades.

He says cotton gin fires are the worst to contain because of cotton's consistency when it’s wet.

“The more water you put on it, the gushier it gets around it. You don't have a good footing, and you can lose a foot. It's like stepping into a big ditch of mud,” said Watts.

What causes the fire may surprise you.

This machine picks the seeds out of the cotton, but sometimes a nut or bolt gets loose and goes down this chute where the seeds come out.

“Any piece of metal that gets in there and hits the side and causes a little spark, it will ignite. All the cotton generates dust and the dust is highly flammable,” said Watts.

He says his team is usually called out twice a year for a gin fire. “A lot of times they take care of it. A lot of time all we can do is let it burn out.”

Letting it burn is sometimes the best route because as they put it "its the nature of the cotton business."

“It's not an easy task,” he said.

Barrentine says the safety of his employees is his top priority.

If a fire is too big for them to handle, he urges them to contact the fire department

No one was injured in the fire and none of the processed cotton was destroyed.

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