LAKE CITY, SC (WMBF) - A fire burned equipment and cotton mote in a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Lake City Wednesday night, and was still burning Thursday afternoon, more than 15 hours later.
The cotton product that was being stored inside the warehouse is stuck beneath a collapsed tin roof and continuing to burn. Construction equipment is being used to give firefighters access to the burning cotton.
"It's compacted together, so it was tough to get it," Lake City Fire Department Chief Randy Driggers said. "You have to tear it apart in order to extinguish it."
Several fire departments responded to the fire at Southeast Cotton Warehouse at the corner of Church Street and Graham Road Wednesday night.
At around 8:30 p.m., firefighters were working to keep the fire contained, which ended up taking 50 minutes, Chief Driggers said.
A nearby warehouse was damaged due to the heat and flames from the fire, however, a sprinkler system prevented the second warehouse from catching fire, Driggers said.
Fire crews from Lake City, South Lynches, Olanta, Williamsburg County and Kingstree City responded.
Lake City firefighters stayed throughout the night to keep watch and were on scene Thursday while smoke and pockets of flames were still visible. They'll continue to monitor the area for the next few days.
"The biggest thing is that area of cotton," Chief Driggers said. "We need to access where that cotton is to try to do that, but it's going to smoke for days."
An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the fire. Florence County Sheriff's Office is assisting in the investigation. Chief Driggers said it could be days before they know anything.
"Because of the heat and everything is still burning, we're still trying to gain access, that's going to be a process that's going to take a long time, but as of right now, it's still undetermined," he said.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is testing the air quality for any hazards to the public from the smoke. Chief Driggers said the results are expected to come back clear because the cotton that's burning is a natural product.