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Officials watching for hot spots in Wiggins industrial fire (Updated 2:30 p.m.)

Firefighters and emergency officials were using track hoes and heavy equipment this afternoon to remove burned and smoldering paper product from a warehouse so they could put out hot spots left from the inferno that raged early this morning.

Wiggins Fire Chief Jody Hatten said there was a great deal of paper product stacked in the 25,000-square-foot, open-air warehouse when the fire reportedly started about 1:30 a.m. It was mostly full, Hatten said.

Hatten said removing the material "is a long process.

"We'll go well into the night trying to put it all out," he said. "There's so much stuff in there, it's having to be pulled out with tractors."

The warehouse belongs to Cellutissue, a paper-making plant that is Stone County's sixth largest employer. It was formerly Coastal Paper Company. No employees were injured, fire and police officials said, and subsequent shifts are being told to report to work.

Deputy Police Chief Jeff Thomas said his officers got the call at 1:40 a.m. The night shift at the plant reported the blaze that sent smoke billowing into the air for hours. The plant is near U.S. 49 and South Magnolia Drive in Wiggins.

"I was out there last night for several hours," Thomas said. "The materials inside the warehouse were fully involved. It was intense."

He said the Wiggins and Stone County fire departments had the blaze contained quickly and kept it from spreading throughout the plant.

Thomas said the warehouse did not have sides, or solid walls and the metal roof collapsed during the blaze. However, the open sides gave firefighters different vantage points from which to fight the blaze.

Read more in Saturday's Sun Herald.

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