Fire destroys produce warehouse

April 27, 2009 8:56:01 AM PDT
Firefighters were still on the scene of the massive fire at noon Monday, monitoring the situation. Click here for photos

The blaze started at the Southern Produce Distributors warehouse on Highway 403 around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The facility is one of the largest vegetable distribution centers on the east coast.

Twenty-five fire stations from multiple counties responded to the fire Sunday night. Water was a concern because there was not a large enough supply in Faison.

The Town of Faison told Eyewitness news firefighters have used over one million gallons of water, leaving the town's water supply close to to the critical point.

"We drained the town dry, so we were having to start tankers in here which we were already doing," said Lee Kennedy, assistant fire chief.

Water is being trucked in from nearby ponds, creeks and neighboring counties to use on the fire.

Inside the warehouse, firefighters also had huge challenges. There were stacks of wooden crates stacked from floor to ceiling that contained sweet potatoes and vegetables. The wood served as fuel for the fire.

Crews brought in a backhoe to tear down a metal wall and allow firefighters to attack the blaze from above. And even with their all night efforts, they could not extinguish the fire, but by morning it was under control.

"Last one we've had here was 21 years ago," Kennedy said.

In 1988, another fire at Southern Produce threatened to put the company out of business. But the company battled back. Southern Produce now distributes nearly four million bushels of potatoes and vegetables each year. Now the company will have to rise from the ashes again.

No one was inside the warehouse when the fire started and no injuries were reported.


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