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Fire guts mini-pulp mill/ag research facility near Dayton, Washington

DAYTON, Washington (From news reports) -- Fire crews were mopping up a fire that early Jan. 31 destroyed a multimillion dollar pulp mill closely associated with Columbia Pulp.

Columbia County Fire District 3 crews were called to the blaze at Innovatio -- an agricultural residue innovation center/mini-pulp mill -- about 2 a.m., District 3 Chief Jeromy Phinney said.

After battling the fire a short time, he said he called for assistance, including Walla Walla County Fire District 4, Walla Walla County Fire District 8, College Place Fire Department, and eventually Walla Walla Fire Department. Up to 40 firefighters were on scene.

"We stopped it from spreading," Phinney said, adding his department remained Tuesday morning to extinguish the still-burning debris under the building's collapsed roof.

District 3 crews also worked to prevent piles of straw catching fire and kept the blaze away from two fuel tanks near the old Columbia Cutstock building, one each owned by Sean Cassady and Coleman Oil.

District 4 crews said they got the call to help at about 2:44 a.m. and arrived at about 3:24 a.m. and College Place Fire crews said they were called at about 3:15 a.m. and arrived at about 3:45 a.m.

Phinney said he had to call Walla Walla City Fire Department because they had a ladder truck, enabling them to enter the building. Walla Walla city crew officials said they were called at about 3:58 a.m. and arrived within an hour.

"It took them a long time to get there because most of them were coming from the Walla Walla area," Phinney said.

But even with all the help, the building was a total loss, he said.

No injuries were reported and the cause is under investigation.

By about 7:30 a.m., several fire crews finished at the scene, including College Place and Walla Walla, and returned to their stations.

The building, a mini-pulp mill, sat on 3.2 acres formerly occupied by Columbia Cutstock and purchased by Mark Lewis in 2016.

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