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A 5-alarm blaze destroyed the main building at Mid Valley Ag Dryers, a hazelnut drying business in Salem, Ore., on Oct. 13. The plant, owned by father and son Henry and Tim Buetler, was operating overnight when the fire caught, Statesman Journal reported.
The duo ran the plant 24 hours a day during peak hazelnut season. Henry Buetler resided to a mobile home on the property after checking the nut dryer around midnight.
"Everything was functioning properly, and two hours later, it wasn't," he told the source.
Awakening around 2:20 a.m. to perform a moisture test on the nuts, Henry immediately knew something was wrong. The burners and fans, which produce a lot of noise when active, were silent. Running to investigate the building where machinery is housed, he discovered flames 10 to 15 feet high.
"I didn't hear the burners running and ran outside to see what was going on," he said. "I thought it was a brush fire going, but it was the plant on fire."
Both the building and attached silo were engulfed in flames, Katu reported. Firefighters were contacted immediately and eight area agencies responded. Fire suppression required approximately 200,000 gallons of water from tankers, as no fire hydrants were available. Crews battled the blaze throughout the morning. It took about eight hours to fully extinguish.
Officials stated that the main building was likely a total loss. Around 400,000 pounds of hazelnuts were scorched in the blaze.
"We made improvements to the plant," said Buetler. "Everything was going so well this season and it ended so drastically and abruptly."
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
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