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Snow Hill monitoring grain silo fire at Tyson Foods plant

Snow Hill representatives and county emergency services officials continue to monitor a grain silo fire that broke out late last week at the Tyson Foods plant.

Silo fire-Snow Hill

Over the last week, Snow Hill residents have been dealing with an odor from burning corn inside one of the silos at the Tyson Foods plant.
Photo courtesy Scott Brown

By Steve Green, Executive Editor

Snow Hill representatives and county emergency services officials spent much of this week monitoring a grain silo fire at the plant owned by Tyson Foods.

“We are monitoring a fire inside a silo at our Snow Hill, Maryland feed mill,” read a statement issued by Tyson Foods last Friday. “The fire is contained inside the silo, and we are working closely with the local fire department to resolve the incident. Because the silo contains corn, those in the area may notice an odor coming from the facility temporarily. Out of an abundance of caution for safety, the roads leading to the facility have been closed.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Worcester County Public Information Officer Kim Moses confirmed air quality tests have been reviewed. 

“We have reviewed the air quality test results, which reflect that all readings are within normal ranges,” Worcester County Fire Marshal Matt Owens said. “However, like any form of smoke, those who are sensitive to air quality conditions may wish to limit outdoor activities.” 

According to Owens, fire suppression is underway through the use of nitrogen to remove oxygen. Fire hoses will then be use on any grain still smoldering once removed from the silo.

Tyson Foods Vice President of Corporate Communications Laura Burns pledged full cooperation with Snow Hill officials, saying in the statement, “We will continue to work closely with the local officials until the situation is resolved and are grateful for their support.”

Snow Hill residents have reported an odor for the last week over the town. Last Friday, May 17, a press briefing was held and officials on hand included Mayor Mike Pruitt, Councilperson and Mayor-Elect Janet Simpson, Town Manager Rick Pollitt, Police Chief Andy McGee, Police Sergeant Rudell Brown, Code Official Kevin Brown and Tyson representatives.

“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the silo fire situation in Snow Hill,” the Maryland Department of the Environment posted on its Facebook page last weekend. 

In response to community concerns, Snow Hill Volunteer Fire Company posted on Facebook, “The fire department is aware of community concerns regarding the incident at the feed mill. Since Thursday, a number of meetings have occurred regarding the extinguishment of the fire. Multiple local agencies, and elected officials have been attending these meetings, to better understand the situation and assist when and where necessary. The facility operator has contracted for air monitoring within the area of the plant. While odors from the plant are currently unpleasant, the plant operators have provided assurances from their contractors that all levels are within appropriate regulatory limits. As extinguishment operations commence, the response contractor will be performing additional air monitoring on and off site out of an abundance of caution.”

In his own statement Tuesday, Pollitt said, “The mayor and town council of Snow Hill have been deeply involved in the situation at the Tyson feed mill from the beginning and have strongly pressed for assurances that the health and safety of our residents is at the forefront of all considerations and actions. We have confidence that the emergency is being properly managed and that on-going testing for air quality and traffic safety is among the highest priorities. We understand that, as the corn product is removed from the silo, there may be additional concerns about smoke and odor and ask everyone to use common sense when in the immediate area. All of the appropriate agencies are involved, and they continue to stress that public health and safety is not at risk.”

This story appears in the May 23, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.