Fire destoys part of Hoopes Fertilizer facility

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hoopes fertilizer fire
A fire destroyed a warehouse of de-icer products at Hoopes Fertilizer Works in western Columbiana County near East Rochester Monday night, Jan. 9. More than 60 firefighters from three counties fought the blaze. (Photo courtesy Great Trails Fire District)

MINERVA, Ohio — A fire destroyed a warehouse storing a de-icer product Jan. 9 at Hoopes Fertilizer Works, located on U.S. Route 30 just west of East Rochester, Ohio.

More than 60 firefighters from three counties were on the scene and able to contain the fire from spreading to two additional buildings at the facility.

According to Aaron Stoller, chief of the Sandy Creek Joint Fire District, multiple calls came in around 5:45 p.m. from drivers on U.S. Route 30 who saw smoke coming from the building. Stoller and one of the district’s trucks arrived at 5:47 p.m.

A passerby also stopped at the nearby home of owner Terry Hoopes, who arrived just before the firefighters.

When firefighters entered the building, there was a minor explosion that forced them back outside. Stoller said at this time, they’re still not sure what triggered the explosion. Once outside, firefighters went into a defensive attack, to contain the fire and prevent its spread.

Although Hoopes Fertilizer makes and sells custom fertilizer products, the 180-by-150 foot building contained the company’s winter de-icing products that were not hazardous to firefighters, and housed only 40 bags of a potash fertilizer, Stoller said.

“It was easier to fight with just salt,” he added, and no special hazard precautions had to be taken.

The warehouse did have a separation wall, but the intense fire jumped the wall to engulf the entire building.

A Norfolk Southern Railway track runs adjacent to Hoopes Fertilizer, and the company has an off-loading sidetrack where it receives shipments. The railway had to stop rail traffic, including a crude oil train, during the firefighting efforts, but it was permitted to go through sometime between 8 and 9 p.m., and other rail traffic was resumed, although slowed, after that time. Three railcars sitting on the Hoopes’ off-loading leg were empty.

The water and cold temperatures combined for icy conditions, Stoller said, and the Ohio Department of Transportation devoted a truck to maintaining the immediate stretch of U.S. Route 30 during the fire.

Firefighters were able to leave the scene by 10:30 p.m., but Stoller said his firefighters went back an additional time to put out spot fires.

The cause of the fire is unknown, and Stoller was scheduled to meet the investigators from the state fire marshal’s office and the business’ insurance company Tuesday morning. An Ohio Division of Wildlife expert was also on the scene Tuesday morning to conduct a study of an adjacent creek for fish kills or environmental contamination.

The fire was the first in the company’s 54-year history, said Terry Hoopes. “We’ve never even had to use a fire extinguisher for anything.”

“It’s pretty hard to swallow,” he added. “We just lost $5 million yesterday.”

The Sandy Creek Joint Fire District received mutual aid from fire departments in Carroll, Stark and Columbiana counties: Homeworth, North Georgetown, Hanoverton, Washington Township, Osnaburg Township, Augusta Township, the City of Canton, the Carroll County Fire Department and the Great Trails Fire District. There were no injuries reported from any of the 60-80 firefighters or emergency personnel on the scene.

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