FOUR OAKS — A fire Tuesday at the House-Autry Mills plant in Four Oaks will have no effect on the hushpuppy supplies at the N.C. State Fair.
In fact, the plant was back up and operating Tuesday evening, company CEO Craig Hagood said. The plant was evacuated for a time after the fire, and no one was injured.
The fire started shortly after 4 p.m., when a spark ignited dust in a dust-collection system in the corn-grinding room, Hagood said. A “blow-out panel,” a device that blows air at the fire to direct it outside, helped minimize the damage, he said.
“If you have a fire, what you want to do is get the fire outside the building,” he said. “You don’t want to have to use (the blow-out panel), but when you use it, it works.”
Hagood estimated the fire caused $3,000 to $4,000 in damage.
Firefighters from Four Oaks, Benson, Smithfield and Elevation were dispatched, along with emergency medical services units from Four Oaks and Johnston County, according to a Johnston County emergency dispatcher.
The plant, at 7000 U.S. 301 S, makes flour, hushpuppy mix and other grain products that are staples of Southern cooking.
House-Autry is a mainstay at the State Fair, where the company sponsors the “Southern Fried Classic” recipe contest, and its representatives hand out free hushpuppy samples. The fair starts Thursday.