Fire in hopper of sulfur powder challenges responders

Moorland, Callender fire crews respond to Roelyn

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen A firefighter and a NEW Cooperative employee look over Material Safety Data Sheets Wednesday afternoon as crews work to put out a small smoldering fire in a bin of sulphur at the Roelyn plant west of Moorland.

ROELYN — A small fire in a large hopper of sulfur powder Wednesday afternoon at the Roelyn NEW Cooperative elevator complex gave firefighters from Moorland and Callender a big challenge due to the hard-to-access location of the smoldering material.

Moorland Fire Chief Ken Thompson said the fire started near a conveyer belt in the top most portion of facility’s fertilizer warehouse known as the “head house,” when either a spark or a piece of hot metal came into contact with the material. He said a maintenance crew was using a cutting torch.

“Something hot fell into the fertilizer and there was some smoldering,” he said.

The incident at the elevator complex at 1207 Railroad Ave. was reported at 1:20 p.m.

The fire itself remained small and was contained to the headhouse and a small portion of the bin below it. Elevator crews also removed a section of siding to help gain access to the fire and sprayed the material with fire extinguishers.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Crews work to set up a ladder and gain access to a small smoldering fire in a bin of powdered sulphur at the Roelyn NEW Cooperative elevator complex Wednesday afternoon.

Getting to it was not easy.

“The problem is access,” Thompson said.

Crews were finally able to set up a ladder inside the bin, then were able to use a water mist on the material to put out the fire. The large building has a drive-through truck bay that they were able to utilize to bring a pumper truck into the building.

Thompson said that the burning material did not present a hazard to anyone nearby and no evacuations were required.

Thompson said that large structures such as new modern elevator complexes can present a problem for firefighters simply due to their size.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Moorland Fire Department crews drove their truck inside a large fertilizer warehouse at the Roelyn NEW Cooperative elevator as they work to put out a fire in a bin of sulphur.

“It’s a challenge,” he said.

The call was also something of a hybrid for the department, combining the potential of having to deal with possible hazardous materials and a large-scale building.

“You can train for hazmat,” he said. “You can train for the size of the building. It’s just the scale of the building.”

Once the smoldering material was put out, Thompson said, elevator crews might still opt to empty the bin to ensure the fire is completely out and to remove the burned remains of the fertilizer.

Moorland was assisted on the call by the Callender Fire Department.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Moorland Fire Chief Ken Thompson, at right, along with another firefighter, work on the issue of gaining access to a small smoldering fire in a bin of sulphur at the Roelyn NEW Cooperative elevator complex.

There were no injuries.

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