Jeff Lehr Globe Staff WriterNEOSHO, Mo. – A firefighter with the Neosho Fire Department was killed Monday afternoon leading the attack on a fire inside a grain bin at a livestock feed company’s plant a short distance outside the city limits on Neosho’s west side. A 12:49 p.m. report of a fire at Ragland Mills Inc., 14079 Hammer Road, eventually drew firefighters from Redings Mill, Seneca and Joplin as well as Neosho because of difficulties the fire – inside one of two tall, grain-storage structures at the west end of the plant – posed to suppression efforts. Officials said the fire broke out in a bin containing wheat hulls in the westernmost of the two storage structures, each of which appears to be about 100 feet tall. Witnesses at the scene said smoke could be seen coming from a vent near the top of the tall structure about 200 yards to the east of U.S. Highway 71. “We’ve lost one of our brothers,” Michael White, deputy chief for the Redings Mill Fire Department, told reporters about five hours later, after the fire had been brought under control and the body of the firefighter had been removed from the scene. As part of the initial attack on the fire, he said, the firefighter who was killed had entered the storage structure that was not on fire and was riding a conveyor belt to its top in an effort to get above the fire in the adjacent structure and direct water down on it. White described the conveyor belt as a virtual one-person elevator. He said the death happened as the firefighter was ascending in the conveyance. He said the firefighter’s cause of death and the cause of the fire remained under investigation, and he declined to provide any additional details about what was believed to have happened. He said more information may be released today after preliminary probes by state fire investigators and the Newton County Sheriff’s Department. Ken Copeland, Newton County sheriff, told reporters gathered at the scene that the firefighter did not fall to his death. But, Copeland would not say exactly how he was killed. The identity of the firefighter was still being withheld late Monday night because of difficulties in notifying one of the victim’s family members. Neosho fire Chief Greg Hickman assumed responsibility for notification of family and was not available for comment on the death. The body was not removed from the plant until almost 5:30 p.m. The mayor, city manager and other Neosho officials stood watch outside the plant for several hours Monday afternoon while body-recovery efforts were being carried out. A Joplin Fire Department truck with a 102-foot ladder was needed to lift personnel to the top of the structure and remove the body from the building. Members of the Neosho, Seneca and Redings Mill fire departments remained at the scene until well after dark. The firefighters were emptying the bin in which the fire had broken out to prevent flare-ups, White said. Mayor Howard Birdsong said everyone was hard hit by what happened. He declined comment though, stating that city officials wanted to wait until a news conference today to express their thoughts. Redings Mill and Joplin firefighters planned to man Neosho fire stations Monday night. “We’re covering their stations so Neosho’s personnel can be home with their families tonight,” said Joplin Battalion Chief Gerald Ezell.