INDEPENDENCE - An apparent dust explosion at a corn cob processing plant here kept volunteer firefighters from five agencies busy for hours Friday.

The fire started in a dust control system in one of the buildings at the Best Cob on Bland Avenue at about 1:30 p.m.

A worker was in the area and escaped injury. He pushed an emergency shutoff to lessen the damage, but flames were coming through the roof as fire crews arrived, said Rick Wulfekuhle, assistant chief for the Independence Fire Department.

"With the corn cobs, there was a lot of dust," Wulfekuhle said.

He said the fire started in a 60-by-30-foot work bay attached to a larger building. The blaze was contained to area, but flames spread in some of the walls, which had to be ripped down.

Firefighters used thermal imagers to track and attack the hot spots, Wulfekuhle said.

With outdoor temperatures in the 80s, officials called for backup from the Jesup, Rowley and Winthrop departments. Crews for Independence Mental Health Institute's fire brigade and Independence Ambulance also assisted.

He said the extra manpower allowed them to stave off exhaustion by rotating in fresh firefighters.

Best Cob uses corn cobs to make pet bedding, oil absorbent and other products.

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