Livingston Fire Chief, Corky Cochran (left) and Polk County Sheriff Ken Hammack on the scene at Wonder Chemical in New Willard.
Large Plant Fire Draws Attention from Fire Departments All Over Polk County and Beyond, NEW WILLARD, April 10, 2011 - A large mulch fire at the Wonder Chemical Plant drew the attention of VFDs from all over Polk , Liberty, Angelina, San Jacinto Counties, City of Cleveland, Huntsville and more. Mulch fires are fairly common at the plant located in New Willard, but according to fire fighters familiar with the plant, this was the worst one they've seen. The fire spread and got so large that it caught large equipment on fire and ignited propane tanks that blew up. Americare Ambulance Service was dispatched to standby along with Deputies from the Polk County Sheriff's Office (including Sheriff Hammack himself). Fire fighters from all over the area teamed up in fighting the stubborn much fire. The chemicals used in processing mulch and the large hills of mulch can become very dangerous on hot days causing the mulch to ignite. The fires are slow burning and smolder beneath the surface as smoke billows. Putting out the fires is very difficult due to the smoldering nature of the fire. A southern wind was constantly blowing, fanning the fires as they spread quickly. A helicopter was dropping large amounts of water directly onto the large hills with constant trips back and forth to refill. Firemen worked into the evening with trucks making trips back and forth to Livingston to refill and return. At times the entire complex was engulfed in smoke making breathing difficult without the assistance of a breathing device.
Click here for footage from the scene.
Water is dumped from a container being suspended by a helicopter that was making constant trips back and forth.
This is one of the smaller hills of mulch at the plant. The smoke billows from the smoldering beneath the surface. The other hills were so smokey that they could hardly be seen.
The thick smoke nearly blocked out the sun darkening the area.
Not an easy job: Bubba Piper (left) helps fellow fire fighter Ben Ogletree, III, with his fire suit.
A fire fighter uses a water cannon to get water to the burning hills of mulch.
Little helpers: Water and gatorade was available as these little volunteers were ready to assist.
"Tater" is cradled by his owner and kept at a safe distance from the fire.
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