RAVENSWOOD - Sandy Creek Farms, a meat processing facility and country store near the Ravenswood-Silverton exit of Interstate 77 in Jackson County, burned to the ground Monday afternoon, officials said.
No one was injured during the fire that destroyed the facility, said Silverton Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Steve Crow.
Emergency officials were notified of the fire at 11:34 a.m. Monday, said Crow.
Business owner Rick Rees said three employees were in the building when the fire started. He declined to make a statement about any future business plans.
An estimated three inches of snow covered the mile-long stretch of road between the Silverton Volunteer Fire Department and Sandy Creek Farms, Crow said. This created some delay in reaching the fire, said Crow.
Firefighters from the Ravenswood Volunteer Fire Department and the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department joined Silverton Volunteer Fire Department at the fire; the departments had to contend with treacherous road conditions in the pouring snow to reach the scene, Crow said.
The fire reportedly began after employees of Sandy Creek Farms received their usual shipment of meat, Crow said. They processed the meat and placed it in the smokehouse, a facility within the main building, Crow said.
A short time later, one of the employees noticed what was described as a grease fire inside the smokehouse. The alarm was raised, and employees attempted to extinguish the fire with nearby equipment, but it spread quickly, Crow said.
The fire was too large to contain by the time employees returned with the fire extinguisher, Crow said.
When firefighters with the Silverton Volunteer Fire Department arrived, the building was engulfed in flames, Crow said.
"There was heavy black smoke coming out all sides of the building and along the roof beams," said Crow. "When we went inside, we could see that the roof was on fire above us," he said.
Firefighters initially entered the building to attempt an interior attack on the blaze, Crow said. A few minutes later, he made the decision to evacuate the firefighters, Crow said.
"We could see that the fire was over top of us and too far advanced for us to stop. The roof collapsed moments after we got the last firefighter out," Crow said.
Once the roof caved in, firefighters switched to a defensive attack on the structure, attempting to contain the fire rather than save the doomed building, Crow said.
The fire was declared under control at 2:46 p.m., Crow said.
A fire hydrant, about 600 feet from the Sandy Creek Farms facility, provided firefighters with the ability to douse the fire without needing to ferry water on slippery road conditions, Crow said.
"All three departments had a good response," said Crow. "We did the best we could, considering how far advanced the fire was by the time we got to the scene," he said.
Cottageville Volunteer Fire Department remained on standby throughout the incident, Crow said.