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Two firefighters injured Sunday as crews battled two-alarm blaze at Suffolk wildlife feed plant

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June 27–Suffolk

The spontaneous combustion of peanut skins at a downtown warehouse led to the two-alarm fire that injured two firefighters on Sunday.

“This happens from time to time in the peanut business,” said Mat Pope, manager of Nuts for Wildlife by phone on Monday morning. He was grateful to the Suffolk fire department for responding to the fire so quickly and also that no one was seriously injured, he said.

The two injured firefighters were treated and released from Sentara Obici Hospital before 8 last night, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink by email on Monday. Pope said Nuts for Wildlife staff had left for the weekend by Friday afternoon so the facility was empty when the fire broke out.

A 911 call at 11:43 a.m. Sunday reported a commercial structure fire in the 160 block of County St. Suffolk Fire & Rescue arrived at the Nuts for Wildlife facility about two minutes later and found a large column of smoke coming from the warehouse.

The fire extended to the roof, and because the building is so large and close to other buildings, additional crews were called to fight the flames, Klink said on Sunday. Volunteer crews and those from Chesapeake and Smithfield helped backfill Suffolk stations.

Police closed sections of County Street as firefighters fought the blaze, which was deemed under control by 3:38 p.m. Two firefighters, however, were injured and taken to Sentara Obici Hospital.

The scene was cleared hours later at 7:53 due to the removal of bags of burned peanut skins, according to Klink in a press release late Sunday.

This morning, Pope said they lost the storage facility’s roof and roughly $25,000 worth of by-product of the business’ blanching operations.

Nuts for Wildlife is a nut, fruit, and seed processing facility. It takes low-grade product from major food-grade facilities — material that might otherwise wind up in a landfill — and turns it into wild bird feed, Pope explained. Some product is also turned into commercial feed for cattle or pigs.

The business is a manufacturer and wholesaler; they do not sell retail, he said. A second Nuts for Wildlife plant is located in Shawnee, Kan.

No equipment was damaged in Sunday’s fire, Pope said. The business was up and running “at full speed” today, he said, though clean up was ongoing.

Klink said the Fire Marshal’s Office is continuing its investigation of the fire.

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