FARMVILLE, N.C. -- Smoke continues to pour out of a charred silo, as hundreds of gallons of water is pumped in.
"We definitely have it more under control than we ever have with being able to get water into the tank itself and flowing on the product,” said Tommy Brady, the assistant fire chief, Farmville Fire Department.
Farmville firefighters first got the call on Nov. 27 that the silo at Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration on West Marlboro Road was on fire.
"I'd never seen anything like that to be honest,” said Jamar Wilkes, who lives just down the street.
He says the past two weeks have been hectic.
“It was a little shocking at first. I think the first time I noticed it was late one night that I noticed it was on fire and then I thought it would be over by the morning. Then I woke up and saw that it was still on fire the next day. So I'm like, 'Oh, man.'"
Firefighters have used more than 26 million gallons of water trying to put out the smoldering, dehydrated sweet potatoes inside the silo, which has been a challenge for several reasons.
"The biggest challenge for us is that there's no way to access it,” said Brady. “And then the problems we ran into with the engineering side of it that the tank wasn't designed to hold water as well, so we couldn't just flow water into it."
Firefighters say the sweet potato pellets, used primarily in pet food, also poses a challenge because it's hard to penetrate with water.
"Now it's starting to fall out in more chunks then what it was and so that's how we know the water is doing something,” said Brady.
And as firefighters make progress, the smoke and smell in the area are getting better too.
"It just smelled like some burnt pie,” said Wilkes. “It just kind of filled the air with the way it was burning. It wasn't unbearable, but it wasn't the greatest smell in the world."
For the last week firefighters have been on scene 24/7 and they hope to scale back the manpower over the next few days.
The exact cause of the fire is unknown. Farmville's town manager says their main concern is putting the fire out, not the cost, but the company is expected to pay. The owner of Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration declined to comment.