A small fire atop a grain elevator led to the blocking of a downtown street and a time-consuming effort to empty oats from a metal bin.
No one was injured, but Versailles firefighters remained at the scene Tuesday afternoon, 12 hours after they were dispatched to McCauley Bros. feed mill. Police had blocked traffic at North Main and Frankfort streets so vehicles could not turn onto Broadway.
The Versailles Fire Department was alerted at 2:15 a.m. Tuesday that a metal container at the top of a grain elevator was smoking, assistant fire chief Bill Phelps said.
“There’s a motor inside there, and from what we can tell, it appears that a bearing went bad and the fan belt came off,” Phelps said. The housing for the motor and belt is about 90 feet high, just below an American flag that flies at the top.
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The mill was filling a large metal grain bin, and some of the smoldering embers got into the bin, Phelps said. Thermal imaging cameras confirmed that temperatures greater than 200 degrees Fahrenheit were coming from the top of the bin, indicating a fire inside.
Once the fire at the top of the elevator was extinguished, firefighters concentrated on emptying the bin of oats.
“We’ve been putting a fine mist of water on top to keep the dust down, to prevent a dust explosion,” Phelps said.
Grain dust is highly combustible, creating an increased possibility of fire or explosion at a large grain-handling center. In January 1988, an explosion at a 200-foot-high grain elevator in Henderson killed three workers and trapped another worker for more than four hours. An overheated bearing is thought to have ignited grain dust that caused the Western Kentucky explosion.
The oats in the Versailles bin were loaded into dump trucks, which then emptied the grain onto the ground at the back of the McCauley property. “We’ve been putting water on that. That’s where we’ve been finding a lot of the hot spots,” Phelps said.
Phelps said he didn’t know how many bushels of oats were inside the bin, but the company indicated that the bin was nearly full. The emptying of the grain bin began at about 7:30 or 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said.
McCauley Bros. remained open, Phelps said. “What we’re doing isn’t disrupting them a great deal.”
McCauley Bros., established in 1938, produces feeds and nutritional supplements for horses. Ridley Inc. acquired McCauley Bros. in 2006, and Nicholasville-based Alltech acquired Ridley last year.