No one was injured, but an estimated $400,000 in damages occurred during a late Wednesday morning fire at Palleton of Fremont.
Capt. Tom Christensen of the Fremont Fire Department said firefighters got the call shortly before noon and headed to the business at 830 S. Main St.
The fire originated with a pallet grinder used to grind scrap wood into sawdust, which is dumped into a semi-trailer parked nearby.
“We believe a hot ember caught sawdust on fire which then caught the machine on fire,” he said.
When workers returned from lunch, they saw the fire and drove the semi-trailer truck away from it.
Christensen said the back door of the trailer melted and a tarp caught on fire.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, the truck had been pulled a short distance from the fire, but workers couldn’t get the truck to go too far because the vehicle’s brakes wouldn’t release.
The bulk of the fire was where the hydraulic lines were in the grinder and in the conveyer belt area that offloads the sawdust. The fire melted the grinder’s hydraulic lines.
Besides fighting the blaze, firefighters also worked to contain as much of the leaking hydraulic fuel and diesel to keep it from going into the storm sewer creating a fire hazard.
Firefighting foam also was used to lower the risk of the fuel continuing to catch on fire.
“We had a lot of stuff going on in a little bit of time,” Christensen said.
In addition, smoke and embers were flying to the northeast, where a large stockpile of pallets is situated.
Christensen Lumber also is located north of Palleton.
“We hit the fire down pretty good and we wetted down the pallets onsite and then I had another crew drive around Christensen Lumber checking for any hot spots,” he said.
No hot spots were found.
Christensen said seven FFD personnel responded to the scene. Christensen called back the other two shifts of off-duty Fremont firefighters. Three of those firefighters went to Christensen Lumber, while others handled two medical/ambulance calls.
Most crew members returned to the station by 1:30 p.m.
Between the grinding machine and damage to the semi-trailer, Christensen estimated the loss at $400,000.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Christensen said. “There was a lot of lumber there.”
Many finished pallets are stacked north of the machine.
The Wednesday morning fire is one of at least five that have occurred in the last few weeks in Fremont.
Fires include: a house fire on May 22 at 2130 E. Military Ave.; garage fire on May 28 at 1125 N. Irving St.; the Parkview Center shopping mall fire on June 20 at 1900 E. Military Ave.; apartment fire at Nye Apartments on June 22 at 2439 N. Nye Ave.; and the Palleton fire.
Christensen said a cause in the strip mall fire still has not been determined. Insurance investigators plan to bring in experts.
The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office ruled out arson earlier this week.
“They’re still not thinking anything’s suspicious,” Christensen said. “They’re mainly trying to truly find out what happened, because it’s still puzzling.”