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Fire at Mo. plastics plant keeps firefighters on guard

Posted on by SST

Firefighters were on the lookout for flare-ups days following a blaze at a Jackson, Mo. recycling plant.

The fire, which caught around 10 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, was fueled by re-processed plastic pellets, the Southeast Missourian reported. The blaze roared throughout the night, as responders from every fire department in Cape Girardeau County assisted the fire suppression efforts. By Friday morning, however, the 100,000 square foot building began to collapse. The building was left "completely destroyed," said East County Fire Chief Dwayne Kirchoff.

Hotspots within piles of plastic and paper continued to flare-up days after the incident. Extinguishing the smoldering debris has been a major challenge.

"You can't get water all the way through. [It's] like a round hay bale," said Kirchhoff. "You can't get full force of your water through."

Firefighters remained on scene throughout the weekend to watch for flare-ups. For the same reason, a previous fire at the same plant in 2006 took two weeks to fully extinguish. After that incident, however, the building was left standing.

"This was the first time in many years that all the departments had been on one scene and history repeated," said Kirchhoff. But given knowledge of the past, responders were more prepared. This time around, ten tankers were immediately called in, KFSV reported. 

Nobody was inside the plant at the time of the incident. Responders were grateful that the wind kept embers contained. Burning embers have the potential to be caught by the wind and carried to nearby buildings. Kirchhoff said the direction also helped fire crews by keeping smoke "up above" them.

The cause of the blaze will could not be determined until flare-ups were under control. Investigators had to wait for burning debris to be fully extinguished before entering the rubble.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.

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