During the last couple of weeks, a Neosho business has suffered two fires.

During the last couple of weeks, a Neosho business has suffered two fires.

Neosho Box and Wood, located in Neosho's Industrial Park, had its second fire early Thursday morning, located outside of the business. A fire started on the exterior of one of their large mulch piles in the back.

"Most of all of that material was recovered from the Mercy Hospital new site," said Jeff Werneke, owner. "And they were grinding up there so quickly, that we were bringing in about seven semi-trailers continually, it was packed really tight, so it could be a combination of a little bit of spontaneous and then some initially catalysis."

The first fire occurred two weeks ago this Tuesday, Werneke noted.

"We got a call from someone at Nutra Blend, had reported the fire on our property," he said. "The fire department responded and from the looks of it, there is no real evidence of anything. Initially it appeared as if something happened where the fire had been either set or accidentally set.... It had burnt from the outside, someone or something had caused it to ignite from the outside. That pile almost acts like hay, and that the fire had barreling through it. I have talked to a couple of fire people and they tend to think that possibly once that fire started, it started a chain reaction that made it burrow in. Some of these little channels may only be two inches think by 18 inches wide, but it will smolder down through and find dry material and often it will pop out on the other side of the pile, so that is what we have been fighting, repeatedly."

Werneke stated they have only had two major occurrences.

The business's finished product never ignited.

"This was pre-ground, really coarsely grinded stuff. Some of the pieces are 2 inches round and 2 feet long," he said.

At its peak, the pile of material was about 30 feet tall, probably 150 feet long by 50 feet wide, he stated.

Damage wise, he said, "It is really hard to tell, because like I said, it is deceiving, you look at those pictures (noting the ones he took and posted), and it looks devastating. But until we get in and actually process it…my guess, I am guessing we are probably out $8,000-$10,000 worth of product. Then of course, we have a lot of expense in tearing it apart."

Asked what they can do with the burnt material, Werneke added he couldn't use the really charred material, but could grind some of the material that was merely darkened.

"Whenever it goes through the grind and the colorizer it goes through a water bath of sorts, it takes a lot of soot off the outer fiber. If you took a piece of the fiber, and snapped it like a board, the inside is fine, the actual wood fiber inside is OK, it is not all crispy charcoal. Because it is hard wood, it will char on the outside, but the inside, it takes a lot of heat and time to get the middle of it completely charred. A lot of it we will be able to recover. It will make decent mulch, it is not going to be a defective product."

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

"It has been a headache, but we have been in this 11 years now and we have never, ever had anything like this happen," Werneke said.

Werneke complimented the NFD and NPD.

"I can't be more complementary of the fire department, every time they have been out, they have not just helpful, but very understanding and very cooperative," he said. "They are a great group of guys. And the police department, they actually caught it a couple of times."