Firefighters from Kiowa County assisted at the Next GINeration Cotton Gin fire March 2 that burned the burr pile at the site.

Smoke boiled across U.S. 54 Friday morning, March 2, as a large burr pile at the Next GINeration Cotton Gin caught fire on the east side of Cullison, sending thick gray smoke into the air and across the highway. Units responded with tanker trucks and brush trucks.

Firefighters from Cullison, Township 12 in Pratt, Pratt County Emergency Services, Iuka, Sawyer, Byers, Barber County and Kiowa County responded to the call that went out around 8:46 p.m. Friday morning.

Units sprayed water on the burr pile to help prevent the fire from spreading.

This was the second time firefighters had been called to the gin in nine hours. Around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, Cullison firefighters were called to the gin to a small burr fire beneath the burr stacker on the south side of the gin, said Cullison Fire Chief, Chris Freeman.

Only one unit was needed Thursday night as the firefighters spread out the burrs and watered it down. “Last night was minor,” Freeman said.

When firefighters arrived a the scene Friday morning, the big burr pile just to the east of the burr stacker was on fire and other smaller piles were on fire as well. High winds quickly spread the fire and units from other fire districts were called in to assist.

As of 11:30 a.m. Friday morning, no structures were on fire and the fire had been contained to gin property but just 40 minutes later, the fire jumped the highway at 12:10 p.m. and units were sent to fight that fire as well. The highway was closed for just a few minutes then reopened for traffic at 12:20 p.m.

The Kansas Department of Transportation was called in for traffic control and, at first, it was determined that the highway did not need to be closed. The KDOT workers on both sides of the smoke used signs to slow traffic down but kept the highway open. But at 12:10 p.m. the fire jumped U.S. 54 and KDOT was requested to stop highway traffic.

Freeman was uncertain if any bales stored on gin property had caught fire. A couple of fire units were released but many will stay and stand by as the fire is allowed to burn out on its own.

A semi load of processed cotton product, owned by Eubank Cattle Company, was parked near the fire and the load started to smolder. The semi was quickly moved to an open area and the load was taken off, saving the tractor and the trailer.

There was a fire at the gin a year ago on March 6, 2017 that also started around the burr pile but there were numerous cotton bales and cotton modules stored on the north side of the property that were destroyed in that fire that also jumped U.S. 54 and set CRP grass on fire on the north side of the highway and to a field across the road on the east side of the gin.

Because of the bale damage from a year ago, bales were stored at other areas away from the north side of the burr pile this year and were not damaged in Friday’s fire.

@GaleR_Tribune