Piedmont fire caused by spontaneous combustion of filter media

By Ron Kotrba | May 27, 2013

A fire occurred at the Piedmont Biofuels biodiesel plant in Pittsboro, N.C., last week, after “biodiesel-ensconced filter media spontaneously combusted in the tray beneath our filter press,” wrote Piedmont Biofuels founder Lyle Estill in a May 23 blog entry on the cooperative’s website. Estill, who was traveling when he got the news, said the fire “must have raged in isolation most of the night, melting electrical conduit and PVC water lines, causing a ‘sprinkler effect.’”

 The first employee in the next morning called 911 and the fire was extinguished. “Piedmont is left with a lot of smoke damage, partial electricity in our wash-dry facility, and what sounds like a massive cleanup effort,” Estill stated. “The good news is that no one was hurt. And apparently none of our plumbing was affected. We have a terminal full of fuel, so we will be shipping product as usual.”

He said Piedmont is ordering tools for cleanup, repairing the overhead crane, bringing in extra help, pulling an electrical permit, essentially “beginning the process of restoring the building to its former glory,” Estill said, adding that they may install new Plexiglas windows for day lighting “to make it a safer, more pleasant place to work.” 


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