Shut-Down Paper Mill Burns

Posted: December 22, 2008 in Uncategorized

Excerpts from news story, courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune-Star:

A large black shroud of smoke could be seen as far away as Riley, about eight miles from the former International Paper facility at 2401 Prairieton Ave. Firefighters responded about 2:25 a.m. Sunday to heavy smoke and flames at the closed paper plant, said John Gardner, public information officer for the fire department.

Gardner said Sunday the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. The facility is being dismantled. “The only thing we can come up with so far is that maybe some contractors were using torches as they were disassembling and something caught fire,” Gardner said.

A heavy tractor was used to cut a trench across an area of the fire to preserve more valued equipment that was to be removed from the facility, Gardner said, and allow the remainder of the plant to burn itself out.

Smoke could still be seen high in the air by 9:30 a.m. Sunday, when the temperature hovered at 8 degrees.

Firefighters remained on scene for about nine hours, with the blaze finally extinguished about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Gardner said.

Protective clothing helped firefighters battle the cold at the closed paper plant, yet firefighters were limited to one or two hours at a time fighting the blaze, depending on the situation, “if they were wet or if they were protected from the wind,” Gardner said.

“The American Red Cross had a heated school bus that was used as a command center and the Prairie Creek [Volunteer Fire] Department had a rehab unit with heat, plus all the fire engines have heaters,” he said, adding that Honey Creek Fire Department also assisted.

“Fighting the elements makes it extremely rough on firefighters and equipment, when it gets wet, freezes up and gears freeze up. Plus, you have to pay attention to exposed skin and just battle pure exhaustion,” Gardner said.

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