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Family vows to rebuild after fire ravages tobacco barns

Posted August 27, 2009

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— A fire that ripped through a Sampson County tobacco operation Wednesday afternoon caused an estimated $250,000 in damage.

The fire destroyed four tobacco barns, a warehouse and an office on the farm in the Herring community that the West family has owned for generations. About 8,500 pounds of tobacco in the barns also burned up, as did some equipment and children's bicycles stored in the buildings, family members said.

Sampson County tobacco farm fire Sampson tobacco barns go up in smoke

"The tobacco was dry, and all of it was just like if you put gasoline on it, you know. It was just fast. You couldn't do anything with it," said Ted West, 66, the patriarch of the family farm.

Thirty-seven firefighters from seven departments responded to the fire and fought to bring it under control.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but West said something electrical or the gas-powered heat exchangers used in curing tobacco likely sparked the blaze.

"Seeing the building that you've grown up with since you were a little girl just going up in smoke in no time, it was hard," said West's daughter, Tracy Honeycutt. "It brings tears to my eyes now."

The family has insurance to cover the damage, and members said they plan to begin cleaning up and rebuilding on Friday.

"If there's a good sign, we saved these two barns," said West's son-in-law, Chad Honeycutt. "It’s hard to comprehend, but we’ll get it off and going again."

The farm still has plenty of tobacco in the fields that will need to be harvested and cured in the coming weeks.

"Tobacco is my heritage. That's what I've been raised in," Tracy Honeycutt said.


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