Tanner Skains’ birthday dinner ended before it started on April 5 when he got a phone call just before sitting down to eat, reporting that his sunflower processing plant on the south edge of the city was on fire. That early evening blaze caused extensive damage to the Brownfield business. This week, more than eight months after the destructive fire, the plant resumed production.
“It feels great to be up and running again,” Skains told the Brownfield News. “I called my wife when the machines started running and she said she couldn’t hear me and I smiled and said ‘ya and that’s a good thing!’”
The flames were fed by almost 30,000 gallons of raw sunflower seed oil, the plant’s main product. “That oil won’t burn until it gets to about 500 degrees, so there was already a good fire going when it finally caught,” Skanes said. “Once the oil went, there was no stopping it.”
Skains is manager and has owned the business with his father and brother for six years. They crush sunflower seeds into oil and produce about 2,500 gallons a day. CPE had more than 100,000 gallons of the oil in storage, but the fire ruined some of that supply because portions of it were stored in plastic tanks, which melted during the blaze and spilled onto the fire. At least three of those tanks melted, wasting more than 12,000 gallons of oil, which sells for as much as 80 cents per pound.
The plant employs four full time workers and they stayed on during the rebuilding process, handling whatever portions of the construction they could. There were portions of the plant that were unharmed by the fire, which was contained to one three-story building in the center of the facility. The building that did burn was almost entirely replaced, including machinery and contents. “It was a nightmare to watch it burn,” Skains said. “But I said that day that we’d rebuild and get back to work and here we are. It feels good.”
Article Courtesy of Brownfield News