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Fire damages Cargill plant in Goodfield

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GOODFIELD - Fire, possibly fueled by animal fat, destroyed much of an animal feed manufacturing plant in Goodfield Saturday night.

The blaze at Cargill Inc. apparently began in a storage area that holds chicken and pork fat that is processed into dog and cat food, said employee Austin Cranford of Eureka. That section on the east side of the plant away from Illinois Route 117 also holds propane tanks. Cranford was called in to open the building for firefighters.

"They were thinking that the propane tanks might have exploded," said Cranford.

Firefighters from at least five different departments worked to put out the blaze that began in a storage area and protect the remaining building.

Rob Pierce of Goodfield - who made the 911 call - first noticed the fire just after 7 p.m. while driving home along Robinson Street.

"I saw a little bit of smoke coming out of the edges of the steel building," said Pierce.

While smoke is occasionally generated by the feed making process, the plant has no weekend or night shift, said Cranford.

"I could tell nobody was here," said Pierce. "I thought I called soon enough to catch it, but whatever it was inside took off like an inferno."

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Two hours later, firefighters were still trying to put out the blaze on the east side, and opened holes in the roof on the west side of the building. Meanwhile, much of the community gathered at the corner of Robinson and Eureka streets, many brining water to the firefighters from Washington, Eureka-Goodfield, Congerville, Carlock and Deer Creek. Craig Neal, commander on the scene, was not available for comment.

Cargill is an international company with about 150,000 employees in 63 countries. The Goodfield plant produces mainly dog and cat food, but also makes other animal feeds for chickens, deer, horses and other animals. According to Cranford, Cargill's Goodfield employees held a fire safety drill recently that included local firefighters.

"A couple of months ago we had a fire drill here to let these guys practice with their ladders in case there was ever a problem," said Cranford. "We didn't think there would be a problem."

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