A Wilson mote processing plant loses millions in fire - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

A Wilson mote processing plant loses millions in fire

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By Christie Post - email

WILSON, TX (KCBD) – A fire that kindled early Friday morning in Wilson could keep burning for days, according to firefighters.

Smoke could be seen from miles away on Highway 87. That's where a warehouse full of mote bales, what's left after cotton has been processed, caught fire. The mote processing plant, Fiber Brite, in Wilson lost more than three million dollars in damage with the cotton and warehouse combined.

"All of our employees and everything, this is a major blow to us," said Mike Tomlinson, general manager of Fiber Brite.

The Wilson Volunteer Fire Department responded to the plant around 5:30 a.m. with the Slaton Fire Department, to contain the fire.

Mike Tomlinson said employees from the 24 hour plant noticed the mote burning in the early hours of Friday morning, but it was too late. Tomlinson said he estimates a loss of 8,000 to 10,000 bales amounting to millions of dollars. "It will affect the shipments with the people who buy our product," said Tomlinson.

Most of the cotton was pre-sold and would have been made into denim. "We're insured, but you never know how it's going to come out. We just hope for the best and in the past we've always been treated fairly," said Tomlinson.

But this isn't the first time. "The last fire we had was 11 years ago," said Tomlinson.

Tomlinson said it's common for small fires to start in the bales, but this large fire is his worst nightmare. "Motes are typically a trash component in the cotton ginning process. So they're more likely to get a piece of trash in there or something solid that strikes a spark and actually sets a fire," said Tomlinson.

Wilson Volunteer Fire Department said the dry weather and change in wind direction are their main concerns. Firefighters sprayed water around the large warehouse to keep the flames from spreading, because there is nothing else they can do but wait.

"It just burns itself out. There's no way to put it out. There isn't enough water," said Tomlinson, "The more it burns down, the less you have stuff blowing off of it. A real high wind could be disastrous."

Until the fire is completely out, fire officials said they will come and go in shifts watching the fire close and make sure it doesn't spread to the other warehouses.

"With the cold front coming there might be a wind shift change and we're very concerned about that," said Tomlinson.

The fire department said they think the fire will last at least one day. When the fire stops they will burry the cotton in the ground.

We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest developments.

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