A private contractor started work Tuesday morning to help Littlefield volunteer firefighters with a massive fire that required the evacuation of nearby homes.
The private contractor was digging a pit early Tuesday morning. The idea was to push smoldering debris into the pit and smother it.
Firefighters were first called out around 8:00 pm Monday along Highway 385 at the north end of town.
According to Fire Chief Jamie Grey, ICT Holdings owned two buildings that burned. Together, they were 160,000 square feet and both were a total loss. The building held cotton burrs and byproducts which were re-purposed to use in oil production.
“It’s cotton fiber and what they’ll do is they’ll take and refine it, they’ll filter and sift it and make this product,” Grey explained. “This lint right there, after it’s in that phase it was in, it’s very volatile, it’s like gasoline.”
The cotton debris is proving very difficult to extinguish completely.
The first building was completely engulfed when firefighters arrived and it was beginning to collapse. The fire spread to the second building from there.
One home nearby suffered severe smoke and heat damage, Grey said.
Fire departments from Sudan and Amherst also helped. Between all three fire departments, there were approximately 28 fire fighters and 13 fire trucks.
Most firefighters left the scene about 2:30 a.m. At that time the strategy was to let the fire burn itself out and keep it from spreading.
This isn’t the first time a cotton byproduct fire has damaged the property.
“We had a fire in our plant and we lost our plant (in 2015) and we were just in the process of rebuilding,” explained Lyle Cox, Chief Operating Operator for ICT Holdings. “And these were our raw material barns and we were in the process of rebuilding when this unfortunate thing happened last night.”
Cox added that he hopes the wind dies down, he called the wind “our worst enemy right now.”
ICT holdings will not be laying off any employees as a result of this fire, employees who worked at the now burned facilities will be moved to the company’s other locations for the time being.
In the meantime, the Littlefield Fire Department urges locals to be watchful of fire dangers.
“In the current weather conditions that we’re in, be very mindful of that, and general house keeping around your property always helps the fire fighters,” Grey said. He said it’s a good idea for South Plains residents to abstain from any outdoor burning.