Arson investigators were on the scene late Friday morning, but their task of determining the cause of the blaze was slow-going. "There is so much debris from the fire out there right now that their work has been made very complicated," Freitag said.
Heavy equipment was brought in to carefully remove the debris and provide investigators with better access to possible fire origin points. Freitag, while acknowledging investigators had "ruled nothing out at this point," said the blaze likely began within the plant not from a spark from a passing train on nearby Union Pacific tracks, as some earlier news reports had speculated.
In all, about 50 firefighters battled the Pioneer Sawdust fire through the night, arriving on scene about 1 a.m. Friday after several 911 callers reported the plant fully engulfed in an inferno that lit the darkness with billowing, orange flames. No employees were in the plant at the time the fire started.
Firefighters were still on the scene at mid-day, dousing stubborn hot spots as they flared anew.
Pioneer Sawdust has operated since 1956, processing and selling sawdust, wood shavings and wood chips. Other businesses reportedly sustaining damage in the blaze included Peck's Pallets, Corporate Marketing Design and some spaces used for storage. No damage estimates were immediately available for those other spaces.
Jeff Hosley of Peck's Pallets said he was looking Friday for a new facility, but he was still in business. "We won't miss a day. I still have my semis and equipment and I'll find a new place."
About the same time crews were dispatched to the Pioneer Sawdust blaze, firefighters also were called to an apartment fire at 88 E St. Freitag said the flames were contained to one apartment and a storage unit. No injuries were reported.