Fire under investigation

Published 10:08am Sunday, November 3, 2013

By Cain Madden

Staff Writer

COURTLAND, VA —The cause of the Hancock Peanuts warehouse fire here is under investigation by the organization’s insurance company.

Hancock Peanuts is owned by Severn Peanut Company.

Courtland Volunteer Fire Chief Brian Futrell said the fire department was on scene nine minutes after they were dispatched at 12:11 p.m. Oct. 9. The flames were under control by 7 a.m. Thursday, but Futrell said crews were out there for 72 hours.

Assisting were more than 200 firefighters and EMS crew members from 38 fire and rescue departments from different jurisdictions in Virginia and also North Carolina, including Severn, Conway, Como, Murfreesboro and Millennium.

“I can’t thank all of the people who supported us enough,” Futrell said. “From the local businesses, to the people throughout the county helping with food to feed everybody, to all of the firefighters on scene, from departments that came from as far away as North Carolina.

“I can’t thank the other fire jurisdictions for their support enough — they made our job a lot easier.”

The problem was two-fold, he said. One being water and the other the peanuts that were in the warehouse.

“We had to go into town to get water, and also draft water out of the Nottoway River. There was also a pond nearby that we set up to draft from,” Futrell said. “Anytime you have to haul water into a fire, it presents challenges.”

The oil in the peanut hull is also particularly flammable, he said.

“The oil makes it hard to put the peanuts out,” Futrell added. “And there was not enough water on location. We had to bring in sand to smother them out.”

Crews brought in about 300 loads of sand to put out the fire.

“The wind changed direction on Friday, and we were able to get in there and pull the peanuts away from the warehouse,” he said. “The biggest problem was getting the peanuts spread out, so that we could smother the fire out.”

Futrell said the warehouse was a total loss, as was the connecting warehouse that the crew members tried to save. A portion of the burning warehouse fell on it.

Three firefighters were transferred to Southampton Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation that Wednesday. They were treated and discharged by midnight, he said.

(Cain Madden is a Staff Writer for The Tidewater News, a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)

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