10/19/11 166 W, 1 I - + 5 - 2 1983 Planters Oil Mill Fire in Rocky Mount

In August, the OSFM online news channel Fire & Rescue Journal published this historical article on the 1983 Planters Oil Mill fire in Rocky Mount. The article's author, Shannon Orndorff, provides a nice overview of the incident. Three vintage images are also included, including the below shot of Platform 10 in action. The early Wednesday evening explosion and fire brought seven engines, one platform, and approximately 145 firefighters to 1004 Cokey Road. Crews were on scene from Rocky Mount, Stony Creek, and West Edgecombe fire departments.

Complications included fires fed by Hexane, a gas used in extracting oil from cotton seeds. By the time the incident terminated 21 hours later, five firemen had been transported with injuries including smoke inhalation and bruised ribs. Read the entire story, which is also available as a PDF document. Please keep those historical articles coming! (And see this prior blog posting, with links to historical articles in the Journal's former print-based format.)

Fire & Rescue Journal photo

A fire at that place was an almost weekly event. My grandparents lived about two blocks away; between the mill and the main fire station. If I recall; this one was the big one that shut Planters down for good.
scott warner - 10/20/11 - 08:50

Scott, that was the big one that shut the place down. If you remember Southern Cotton and Oil Company was located in the same area and it too was destroyed by fire just a couple years prior to this fire. The 2 fires were about the same in size and intensity but the planters fire was more dangerous due to the Hexane.

Mike, A reference was made about the single platform being used on the fire, but back then Thats all Rocky Mount had. Prior to the platform they had a 1950’s LaFrance tiller. The nearest platform or ladder that could have been brought in to assist would have been Wilson, NC some 20-25 miles away and Greenville NC after that about 40 miles away.

One other note, Assisting Departments called in ( West Edgecombe, Stony Creek, West Mount, Sharpsburg ) were mostly needed for manpower. Stony Creek had a Newer Mack Engine with a 1000gpm Waterous Pump and if I remember correctly they did pump water but all others were manpower. The Science of Fire Fighting and Fire Protection has certainly changed in the last 25+ years.
Galax,VA - 10/20/11 - 21:57

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