Two fires in Sumter

Daily Commercial Staff Writer
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Two large fires consumed much of Sunday evening for firefighters with Sumter County Fire Rescue, and an old packing plant.

There were no injuries.

The first, and larger of the fires was an old abandoned citrus packing plant on County Road 466 at the CSX train tracks, just behind the Oxford Fire Department, according to Sumter Chief Bill Gulbrandsen.

The 6,000 square-feet wood and steel structure was completely destroyed.

According to Oxford Fire Chief Jamie Malloy, the packing plant was 100 percent involved upon the first crew’s arrival at 5:23 p.m.

When the power to the packing plant was turned off, it also cut the electricity to the Oxford Fire Department, from which firefighters were using the water.

However, Malloy said the crews never went without water to fight the fire.

“Whenever they cut the power to the building, we called in a tanker from Lake Panasoffkee and Marion County,” he said. Malloy said with limited water and pressure, the crews were not able to use as much water to douse the flames, as they would like to have. But, he said, “We never ran out of water, we just weren’t able to put the amount of water that was needed.”

He said, although they worked diligently to douse the blaze, there was not much the crews could have done to save the structure.

“Just with the construction of that fire — with the amount of fire that was there when we got on scene, there’s not a lot that we could do,” he said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and has been turned over to the State Fire Marshall’s Office, Malloy said.

Meanwhile, around 7:25 p.m. while crews were still at the packing plant, a call was dispatched to an apartment fire at a horse farm on County Road 472, not far away. Firefighters got to that blaze within two minutes, according to dispatch records.

“We diverted units from the packing house, to the barn fire, and that was an excellent save,” said Gulbrandsen. “It was a good job.”

Malloy said the cause of the fire to the unoccupied, 900 square-feet quarters, was determined to be electrical. There were horses in the nearby barn, according to Gulbrandsen. Malloy estimated about $20, 000 in damages to the apartment. The stations within the county agency that responded to the fires included Royal, Oxford, Lake Panasoffkee, The Villages, and Marion County.