Firefighters try to determine what caused bales of cotton to ignite

Northeast Alabama

JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. – One North Alabama community will be smelling smoke for days after bales of cotton caught fire Thursday morning.

A cotton farmer in Hollywood is facing a huge loss after 100 bales of cotton are burned in a fire. Smoke could be seen for miles away from the scene, but the fire is under control. The farmer has no idea how this could have happened and neither does the fire department. 

“They’ve never had this happen to them before. Hay does this more often than cotton, but they’ve never had cotton,” said Patrick Allen, the Town of Hollywood Fire Chief.

Allen said crews responded just after 8 a.m. Thursday after someone on Highway 72 reported a huge cloud of smoke coming from the field. Allen posted spectacular photos to the Hollywood Fire and Rescue Facebook page from the scene. He says the smoke will be in the air for days. 

Allen told News 19, “The rains helped it a little but you’re going to smell it in the air for at least another week I’d say.”

Allen has little idea of how the cotton could randomly catch fire, but he did compare it to how hay would ignite when from rays from the sun. He said hay creates its own heat and can ignite in no time. 

With a significant amount of oxygen, the cotton becomes combustible.  

“Well like I said, they never had this happen to them before. To my knowledge, they haven’t. It’s the first time for us dealing with cotton bales. We’ve dealt with hay bales a bunch but never dealt with cotton bales before,” Allen said.

Allen says the fire was doused with water immediately and there is no way to get an estimate on the monetary loss after the investigation is completed.  

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