A wedge belt on a press is believed to have been the cause of a fire at the iconic Bostwick Cotton Gin Wednesday.

According to Jeff Stone, chief of Morgan County Fire and Rescue, a Morgan County Roads and Bridges employee called Stone around 12:30 p.m. to alert him that he observed smoke coming from one of three buildings that housed the cotton gin operation.

Stone said he immediately alerted firefighters at the county’s Fairplay Volunteer Fire Department, closest to the cotton gin, who happened to be ready to roll because they were in the process of responding to a field fire in Buckhead.

“We were able to divert them,” Stone said. The Fairplay firefighters, a Walton County unit and an Oconee County unit from High Shoals met at the gin and began to contain the fire. Stone said a representative from Walton EMC also arrived quickly and killed power to the structure.

Stone said he was told by workers at the gin that earlier that day a belt had wedged in the machinery and created heat. The belt was removed and the entire press was doused with water. Stone said an early assessment is that a hidden ember started the fire.

The fire, he said, destroyed the press building, which is on the west side of the gin structure. He said firefighters, despite embers flying into the main gin structure, were able to save the gin. “We had embers flying into the gin,” he said.

The business lost the press building and electric control panels controlling that press.

Stone said the timing of the fire was fortuitous. He said the Fairplay unit was already activated and ready to roll. He also said the quick response from Walton and Oconee counties helped contain the fire. “If it hadn’t been for that, we would have lost it,” he said.

More than 40 fire fighters worked at the site until 7:30 p.m., the chief said. At 9:30 p.m. when firefighters were doing an hourly check on the structure, they found two new hot spots and those were contained. The last check on the structure was completed at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Stone said the county had a field fire at 11:30 a.m. in Buckhead, the gin fire, a medical call and a dump truck wreck in Rutledge where the driver needed to be air lifted for medical care. “It was an eventful day in Morgan County,” he said.

“Luckily things fell into place and we were able to make a good stop.”

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