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A fire resulting from the specific type of manufacturing process associated with an Arkansas recycling facility sent three employees to the hospital with severe injuries, one of whom died as a result.
According to Springfield news affiliate KFSM, a flash fire in the extrusion plant at Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies (AERT), located on 914 N. Jefferson Street in Springdale, Ark., injured three employees on July 17 at 2:30 p.m. The Springdale Fire Department stated that multiple fire crews and first responders arrived on the scene and contained the fire shortly after 4 p.m.
"Our greatest sympathy is with the family and friends of the employee who lost his life, and with those who sustained injuries," said Tim Morrison, AERT's president, said in a statement. "We are providing support to families and associates to help them through this very difficult time."
Kevin McDonald, assistant fire chief, said the fire started in a mixer during production. He said that dust that is kicked off during a portion of the recycling process caught fire, quickly traveling through the air and encapsulating the three employees. However, according to AERT's released statement, the cause of the fire is still unknown. The plant sustained minimal damage, according to Waste & Recycling News. It was unclear if a fire suppression or fire alarm system was tripped during the fire, or if a sprinkler system helped to contain the fire until firefighters arrived on the scene.
"We've experienced fires before not only in those mixers, but also the dust accumulations throughout the facility," McDonald added. "Anytime we disturb it with our hose streams, more often than not we do more harm than good… a lot of the areas where we can't really access the product that's in there, the dust accumulation just has to burn away. Every time we have a fire, AERT tries to learn from what we discover, what caused it, and take measures to prevent those kind of fires again."
AERT manufactures composite wood-plastic decking using recycled polyethylene plastics and fine sawdust, creating MoistureShield and ChoiceDek construction products. Springdale houses several AERT facilities, including its headquarters, and has a previous history with fires.
Sustaining second-to third-degree burns on over 85 percent of his body, Matthew Chwirka died at Mercy Burn Center in Springfiled, Mo., while Howard Marshall remained in stable condition. The third employee was treated for burn injuries and was released from Northwest Medical Center, according to KFSM.
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