An early-morning fire at the Ellis County landfill Friday has left the small service shop where the flames broke out a total loss, according to Public Works Director Bill Ring.

The insurance company called Ring on Tuesday morning and told him the 30-by-50 structure has been declared totaled.

“I have no paperwork yet, I just got the phone call,” Ring said. “It’s more damage than we expected.”

While the building is not unsafe, he said, the exterior siding was damaged, as were red iron steel I-beams inside holding up the roof.

“There’s so much heat damage to the building, and then it twisted,” Ring said. “Some of the red iron in the building is twisted by the heat.”

No one was injured in the fire, which started around 4 a.m., he said. The shop building has been at the landfill northwest of town at 1515 W. 55th St. ever since Ring can remember, and is used as a place for parking equipment and for doing vehicle maintenance and service.

The fire started in a big plastic container outside the building that is available for the public to drop off hazardous household waste, like partially used cans of paint or bottles of insecticide. The container is emptied twice a day, with the items taken to a concrete building by the county’s transfer station, where it’s properly stored before being sent off, Ring said.

Late in the day, someone dropped off a lump of oil-soaked rags, he said, that later spontaneously combusted.

“We have a video system that they went back and looked at the history, and so at 4 in the morning, that’s when the fire started,” Ring said. “We couldn’t make out who it was. We know it’s a man, we know it’s a red Ford pickup, but we couldn’t see the plate.”

Oily rags should be allowed to dry out before disposing of them, he said.

No other information was available yet on the replacement cost.

“I’m assuming they’ll want to replace the building,” said Ring, who will await the written notification and report from the insurance company. “If they’ve totaled the building I’m assuming that they’re going to want to replace the building … but with all the other damage in the counties around, all the insurance companies are jammed up busy, from all the storms, and the flooding and the hail.”

Ellis County Fire Chief Darin Myers said the fire department was paged just after 5 a.m. when the flames were spotted by a ready-mix driver pouring concrete for a new hotel under construction east of the landfill.

“It started on the north side of the building,” Myers said. “From the video, we could see that it started about 4:20, smoking, and by 4:23 there were flames.”

“The Hays Fire Department got there first, they’re on duty, and they got a quick knockdown,” Myers said. County responders from the Hays, Ellis and Victoria companies arrived with more water and entered the building to put out hot spots.

The 32 firefighters had the fire out in about 15 minutes, Myers said.

“There was smoke damage to the entire building,” he said.