Fire destroys Powell bean seed plant

2010-05-31T11:22:00Z Fire destroys Powell bean seed plantMATT HAGENGRUBER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

Fire tore through a bean seed production facility in Powell on Sunday night, destroying a large building and damaging others.

The fire was reported around 11 p.m. Sunday night at the Treasure Valley Seed Co., 313 S. Fair St. The Powell Volunteer Fire Department and the Cody Fire Department fought the blaze for the next eight hours, said Powell Fire 2nd Lt. Damian Dicks. No one was injured in the fire, but firefighters were called back Monday morning to keep the fire from reigniting.

"As of this point we don't know what caused it," Dicks said.

Four fire engines and 28 firefighters from Powell fought the blaze along with two engines from Cody, which is about 25 miles southwest of Powell.

Jamie Franko, operations manager at Treasure Valley Seed Co., said none of the company's employees were on duty over the weekend. Fire officials said three buildings burned down, but Franko said the company considered it one large building with three distinct parts. A nearby Quonset hut was charred on the outside but it is unknown if there was any damage inside. Franko wasn't allowed to get near the buildings, which produce bean seeds for wholesale distribution.

"There was processing equipment in there and a bunch of inventory of beans was in there," he said of the burned buildings. "I don't know exactly what was saved or not saved."

Franko said no one had been at the facility since he left on Saturday morning. Franko was camping in Red Lodge when he received a call around 11 p.m. Sunday. He raced back to Powell when he heard the news.

"By the time I got called it was already a big fire, so it must have started around 10ish," he said. "I have no idea what could've made this happen."

Franko said the former Powell Bean facility has been in operation "since before dinosaurs roamed the earth," but has been owned by Treasure Valley for the last six years. There were several other small businesses on the half-mile long campus. Treasure Valley has another facility in Idaho.

Franko was back in Red Lodge on Monday morning collecting his family before he returned to Powell to meet with one of the company's owners who was flying into town. He couldn't estimate the size of the burned building, but Franko said it was large.

"One end of it was metal framed. The framing is still there, the outside tin is still there," he said. "The rest is wooden structure with metal siding. Those aren't even in existence now. I didn't see it in daylight, so I'm bracing myself for when I get back to town."

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