Fire at Coalinga almond plant continues to burn

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COALINGA, California (KGPE) – Burning piles of almond hulls at Superior Almond Hulling near Coalinga spread to piles of almond shells on Monday.

The huge piles of hulls started burning Saturday and were expected to keep smoldering for days. The winds changed direction on Monday, and the fire is now threatening buildings and equipment.

Hulls are a cardboard-like wrapper outside almond shells. Processors remove the hull and sometimes the shell, too. In the Central Valley, almond hulls are often turned into cattle feed.

“It has caught a pile of shells on fire underneath our augers,” said Superior Almond Hulling General Manager Kevin Long. “Now we’re dealing with that fire, plus the metal structures of the augers and the plant where we run it.”

Losing this pipeline for moving the hulls would be much worse than the loss of the hulls themselves because repairs could impede, delay or stop work on next year’s crops.

“Cal Fire – they were here Saturday when it started. They got everything under control. Once it wasn’t threatening any structures then their duties – it’s my understanding – their duties are done. Once the wind shifted today and it threatened some property they were called and responded immediately.”

The facility’s insurer continues to weigh the cost and benefits of hiring private firefighting crews in a bid to further protect the site’s equipment.

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