Printed on: April 30, 2013

Rexburg fire threatens homes; no one injured

By NATE SUNDERLAND
nsunderland@postregister.com

REXBURG -- Wind gusts nearing 60 mph Monday ignited a blaze at Basic American Foods that threatened five buildings including several mobile homes and a gas station near Seventh North.

Rexburg-Madison County firefighters responded to the fire at 5:40 p.m. The fire spontaneously combusted in several large piles of sawdust used to heat boilers in the potato processing plant.

The fire department typically responds to this type of fire at Basic American Foods about three times a year, Fire Chief Corey Child said.

Monday's fire was more severe due to the wind, he said. The fire quickly spread from the sawdust pile to surrounding vegetation. A large warehouse in the northeast section of the 11-building compound caught fire.

About 45 local firefighters and 10 trucks responded to the blaze. Emergency responders evacuated 12 families in a nearly trailer court. The American Red Cross housed evacuees in Madison Junior High School for several hours.

Following the evacuation, burning ash from the sawdust fire caused three mobile homes to catch fire. Burning ash also caused the roof and back wall of a nearby Tesoro service station to ignite in flame.

Firefighters were able to put out the mobile home and gas station fires within several hours.

Child estimates damages of less than $10,000 at each of the affected buildings.

At 10 p.m., firefighters had the fire contained to the Basic American Foods warehouse. Child expected the warehouse fire to burn for at least several more hours.

He expected evacuees would be able to return to their homes by midnight.