Firefighters from four area departments responded to an overnight blaze that destroyed an old mill and feed store at Highways B and 137 in Raymondville.
Raymondville Fire Department Chief Mike Jackson said personnel from his department answered the call that came in at 11:25 p.m. Thursday. Help from the City of Houston, Houston Rural and Licking departments arrived.
Jackson said the structure was full of old, dry lumber and lots of inventory from when the store closed in 2016, which acted as fuel and made the fire hard to deal with.
“We arrived to find heavy fire in the rear of the building,” Jackson said. “We deployed two attack lines to try to stop it before it advanced, but once the fire got a hold of all that wood and other material, it just went up. And the wind didn’t help us, either.”
Jackson said there were lots of tools and some large commercial machinery inside the structure. He said about 50,000 gallons of water was used to battle the blaze.
“We ran our supply dry twice,” he said. “At one point, for about an hour and a half, we were shuttling water all the way from Houston to Raymondville.”
Jackson said that at one point, as many as seven trucks and about firefighters were at the scene.
“There was a lot of activity,” Jackson said.
The throng of responders was fed breakfast at Acleda’s Korner Kitchen, and a local citizen picked up the tab. Many firefighters’ wives provided water and coffee as the hours progressed.
“I’m very thankful for all the departments that came in and hung with us,” he said. “And the contribution of the wives and others can’t be overlooked. It’s really a group effort.”
Jackson said he spent a good 11 hours on scene, and many other firefighters were there for nine or more.
“And a lot of them went home, took a shower and went to work,” Jackson said. “I hope the public understands the dedication they have.”
A state fire marshal was brought in to investigate the cause of the huge blaze. Even though the building was abandoned, it still had electric power, Jackson said.
“It’s difficult to determine the origin of the fire,” he said, “because of all the debris and the block walls falling, and then also being hampered by large stacks of lumber that were still burning. But we cooled it the best we could to get the fire marshal in there.”
Two officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol helped direct traffic during the lengthy ordeal.
The structure was built in 1956 by Bob and Frances Thomason, who for many years served the community there. Jackson said the blaze was so big that firefighters from Houston said they could see a significant glow in the sky on their way to the scene.