GOSHEN — It is unclear what the next step is for the owner of a wood-grinding business southwest of Goshen that was destroyed in a massive fire Tuesday morning.
Martin Animal Bedding recycled wood scraps into shavings for barn animal bedding. All that remains now of its 21918 S.R. 119 location is a large pile of sawdust, some burnt wood and a pile of metal from the barn walls.
Ten fire departments were called at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, to the business on reports of a barn fire.
Kevin Martin, the owner of Martin Animal Bedding, was seen driving a heavy equipment machine at the scene Tuesday morning. Martin, along with almost 50 friends and family members were moving piles of rubble to help fire crews find hot spots.
Chief Ryan Rheinheimer with the Elkhart Township Fire Department said that one possible cause of the fire is spontaneous combustion. If compressed sawdust has moisture and the right environment, spontaneous combustion can happen. However, the sawdust inside the barn was dry.
A fire investigator has been called to officially determine what started the fire.
The fire department had to drive two miles to get water from city hydrants for the fire, Rheinheimer said.
Representatives from the environmental health division of the Elkhart County Health Department were on site putting up dirt barriers to keep the water used by the firefighters on site.
Tara Still with the department said that there is potential for chemicals to be in the water. Since they didn’t have the ability to test the water there, the health department is erring on the side of caution, she said.
“We don’t want it to go directly into a bottle of water,” Still said.
Salvation Army was on scene to provide food and drinks to the firefighters.
Firefighters were at the scene until early Tuesday afternoon, after crews searched for hot spots on the sawdust pile.
PAST INCIDENTS AND NEW LOCATION
Arthur Zimmerman, Martin’s father-in-law, was among the many people helping firefighters on scene Tuesday morning.
He said he wasn’t sure what his son-in-law’s immediate plans were for his business. But he knew the business was already in the process of moving to another location.
Martin declined to comment.
Martin Animal Bedding was approved in 2012 to move its wood-grinding business to 65448 C.R. 17, just south of Kercher Road.
“They are almost 100 percent complete with construction of their (new) building,” said Chris Godlewski, director at Elkhart County Planning and Development, in a phone interview Tuesday. He added that Martin Animal Bedding was still operating at the S.R. 119 location.
However, no one was working at the time and employees hadn’t used the facility’s grinding machine since Monday afternoon, Rheinheimer told The Goshen News.
The plans at the C.R. 17 location included two 2,500-gallon tanks of water to be stored on-site in case a fire broke out.
Over the last five years, fire departments have responded to six fires at the business on S.R. 119, said Todd Anderson, assistant director of the 911 Communications Center.
The business was also in the process of getting an air permit through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Elkhart County Planning and Development requested a timeline of the company’s transition to the new location, but Godlweski said they haven’t received one yet.
Zimmerman said he hoped Martin would be able to move to the new location sooner, but some of the business’s machinery was burnt in the fire.
“It’s a problem because farmers don’t need bedding so much in the summertime,” Zimmerman said. “They do need some, but in the winter, when the snow’s deep and it rains and it gets wet, that’s when they really need it.”