Slow Burn in Black Oak

December 5, 2003 - Posted at 9:04 a.m. CDT

BLACK OAK, AR - A Black Oak cotton gin continues to burn.

Fire officials say it could be more than a week before the fire burns itself out, but, all is not lost.

Craighead County firefighters say they've never fought anything like this fire, where nearly 8,000 tons of cotton are going up in smoke.

"At 8:15 Tuesday evening, we got the call and by that time it was fully on fire," said Black Oak Fire Chief Kenny Vaughn.

Firefighters slowed, but didn't stop the fire, saying it was too dangerous.  So, after two days of smoldering, the cotton is being carefully removed from the gin.  It will be taken to two different areas.

Firefighters plan on smothering the fire in one pile by using heavy equipment to pack down the cotton.  But no matter how much is saved, Craighead County Emergency Services Manager Jack Richardson says the fire will be costly.  "It has the potential to be, depending on what the salvage is this year.  We haven't had many large fires," said Richardson.

Richardson said gins the size of the operation in Black Oak are fairly new to the area, making officials nervous about the possibility of a flare-up.

Crew plan on removing a thousand tons of cotton per day from the gin, and hope to complete the job in just over a week.