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Fire destroys hay-compressing facility

November 18, 2001|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

More than 40 firefighters from the Imperial Valley and Mexicali fought a blaze Saturday that destroyed a portion of a hay-compressing business near El Centro, causing an estimated $3 million in losses.

No one was injured as of press time Saturday in the blaze that erupted at 4 a.m. at the Wilbur Ellis Co. at the corner of Dogwood and Danenberg roads southeast of El Centro.

The blaze continued to burn throughout the day and once firefighters had done what they could to save other portions of the business, they planned to allow the blaze to burn itself out.

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Imperial County Fire Chief Joe Buzo said with the amount of hay involved, the fire could continue to burn through the day.

The blaze destroyed the hay-compressing facility and burned about 5,000 tons of hay.

Buzo, interviewed Saturday as dusk fell, casting an orange haze over the area as the fire continued to burn, said the cause of the fire was difficult to determine. However, he said the origin of the fire was inside the hay-compressing facility.

Employees were on scene when the fire erupted and called fire crews. Several passersby also reported the fire to authorities.

Fire crews from the county, El Centro, Calexico, Calipatria, Naval Air Facility El Centro, Centinela State Prison, Holtville and Mexicali responded.

The fire crews and the workers did their best to isolate the fire to prevent it from spreading to other hay and other parts of the business.

By 6 p.m., hay remained ablaze and fire crews continued to pour water on the edges of the fire to keep it from spreading to other areas, including an area with a diesel storage tank that was partially filled.

Dan Wray, the facility's plant manager, lauded the firefighters and workers who kept the fire from spreading.

He and Buzo also credited the Red Cross for remaining on scene throughout the day to provide food and drinks to firefighters.

Wray said the business, which has been at that location for 20 years, would survive. He said there are parts of the business that were not affected and business operations will continue this week.

>>Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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