The two buildings belonging to the EJ Cox Peanut Plant are chock full of nuts; peanuts that will be roasting for at least another week. “They’re burning at the top; they’re burning at the bottom. We can’t put them out, there is not enough water here,” said Bladen County Fire Marshal Mitchell Byrd.
Cox peanuts caught up in flames late Thursday night, following a strong storm that hit Bladen County and the surrounding area. The plant has been around since the early 1900’s, supplying peanuts to large companies like Planters. The buildings were only two of their storage facilities, but still a significant amount of inventory lost.
Johnnie Lewis has been the maintenance contractor for the Cox Peanut Plant for more than ten years. He watched as the flames swallowed his place of employment. “It was shocking because this is a landmark, and it’s just devastating.”
The plant employs about fifty-five people from Bladen and Columbus counties. Officials and workers from the plant would not talk to us on camera, but said everyone was back at work today, and they don’t anticipate losing any jobs at this time.
But residents who watched the well-known factory catch up in flames said a piece of their small town is gone, for now. “It’s going to not only affect Clarkton, but it’s going to affect other communities as well,” said Clarkton resident Shamekia Johnson.
Fire officials are looking into the cause of the blaze. They suspect it may have been a lightning strike or an electrical fire.
Luckily, everyone was evacuated in time, and no one was hurt.
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