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A huge cotton bale fire is still smoldering Monday afternoon in the Shoals, more than 48 hours after it broke out.
Firefighters said the fire started early Saturday morning at Vaden farms, off County Road 2 in Lauderdale County.
"We're not sure exactly how it started, but our yard where we store the cotton before it's ginned caught on fire," said a cotton farmer, Randall Vaden.
The Oakland Volunteer Fire Chief told WAAY 31 it took three departments to get the cotton fire under control, but flames are still popping up and the smoke can be seen from the road.
"A lot of the cotton was off of our personal farm, so it's tough to see a whole year's work burn up like that," said Vaden.
Vaden told WAAY 31 they used a small backhoe to separate the burning cotton from the good cotton, but it's been impossible to put out even with the rain.
"Cotton is really hard to extinguish. It absorbs water so well no matter how much water you put on it. It doesn't penetrate very deep, so it just continues to smolder," said Vaden.
Vaden said the lack of rain and drought conditions didn't affect their crops. Volunteer firefighters said when cotton is rolled up in these large bales, it doesn't take much to ignite a fire, but they don't officially know how it started yet. Firefighters said the dry weather we've had could have played a roll in how the fire started.
"The embers, also, if they get in the wind, they will ignite the other cotton, so we've kept equipment here to contain it until it burns down enough that we can bury it or haul off what's left," said Vaden.
Vaden said the fire cost them more than $100,000 in cotton, but they have insurance to cover it.
The fire is not under investigation by the state fire marshal's office, but the farm's insurance company may conduct their own investigation.
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