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Neighboring buildings saved in Rexburg’s sawdust fire

Firefighters continue to monitor hot spots Tuesday at Basic American Foods in Rexburg after declaring the fire under control Monday night.

Madison Fire Chief, Corey Child, said a two-acre sawdust pile burst into flames and spread to three houses and a gas station nearby.

Fire crews said what started out as a smoldering sawdust pile grew out of control in a matter of minutes.

Flames were being monitored by employees at Basic American Foods, but as wind speeds increased, so did the fire.

“The inside is very, very hot,” said Child. “When you add wind to it, it’s like a furnace, and then it self ignites.”

Homeowners in a neighboring mobile home park were forced to evacuate. They were given temporary shelter at Madison Junior High.

“We were hoping and praying for them that they could go back to their beds because that’s where anybody would rather be,” said Anita Knapp, a Red Cross volunteer.

American Red Cross volunteers said cots and blankets were on stand-by, but homeowners were able to return to their homes just before midnight.

“There were a lot of tears that were shed, a lot of families were worried that their belongings were consumed by the fire,” said Child. “In actuality, firefighters were able to suppress the fires while they were small, so all of the residences are still livable.”

Chief Child said as the winds died down, firefighters got the upper hand.

Crews will continue checking the pile throughout the week for any re-igniting.

As far as injuries, one firefighter sustained an eye injury from blowing debris, but no other injuries were reported.

Child said Madison County firefighters respond to fires caused by spontaneous combustion a couple of times a year.

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