Fire breaks out at plant site

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Four local fire departments responded Tuesday evening to a tobacco fire on Biomass LLC's property, the same day the company was ordered to begin removing the materials.

At approximately 10:20 p.m. Tuesday, a 911 call was made to the South Point Volunteer Fire Department, reporting that a fire had started in a tobacco pile on Biomass' property, adjacent to The Point industrial park.

Perry Township, Coal Grove and Burlington-Fayette No. 2. fire departments also assisted.

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Only a few sections of the pile were burning, and it took about an hour to put out the smoldering pile, said Chief Dewey Derifield of the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department.

It was unclear what caused the fire to start, but the investigation is ongoing,

said Tom Daniels, assistant chief with the South Point Volunteer Fire Department.

Mark Harris, president of Biomass, attributed the fire to vandalism. The company had some information on a vehicle leaving the scene, and reported it to the local authorities.

Nothing was damaged, and the company had a bulldozer on the scene before the fire departments responded, Harris said.

Wes Hawthorne, assistant chief and part-time South Point police officer, is looking into locating the vehicle, Daniels said.

Tuesday, Biomass was ordered by the Ohio Environmental

Protection Agency to remove the tobacco and other waste products by July 29.

Pat Clonch, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, said that though the fire was on Biomass' property near the fly ash pond, it could have posed a danger to The Point.

"I was very much concerned about it spreading," she said. "If it had started to spread rapidly, we have buildings and businesses that would be at risk."