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Wisconsin manufacturing facility catches fire, raising air quality concerns

Posted on by SST

A facility that develops residential and commercial heating and cooling products in Wisconsin caught fire, causing alarm at a nearby school with safety concerns over air quality. 

The La Crosse Tribune reported that a Sept. 11 fire in a Trane lab facility, located at 2113 S. 20th Street in southern La Crosse, Wis., prompted the evacuation of more than 30 employees who were unharmed. Melinda Rowland, communications manager at Ingersol Rand, Trane's parent company, said the fire began in the lab building at approximately 6:45 a.m., with La Crosse firefighters arriving on the scene shortly afterward. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Preventative action
Warren Thomas, assistant fire chief of the La Crosse Fire Department, said the lab fire was mostly contained by 10 a.m., but that pockets of flames in the rubber-coated roof kept crews busy. After 11 a.m., first responders were focused primarily on cleaning up the site. While no employees or firefighters reported any injuries, Spence Elementary School – located just one block from the Trane lab – closed down its air cooling system to prevent any harmful intake of particulates in the air from entering the school and effecting the school's 415 pre-K through fifth grade students.

"If there are particles in the air, we don't want it to pump them in the building," said Principal Shelley Shirel. "I would rather be warm than risk any of our kids."

The air conditioning system of the school was shut down as a result, but firefighters gave the school the O.K. to open windows around 10:15 a.m., when school officials turned the air system back on.

"The moment I walked in the door, the first thing I did was call the fire department to see whether it was safe for us to be in the building and safe to be outside," Shirel added.

Students were even permitted to go outside later in the day for recess, the source reported.

According to Rowland, operations in Trane's other seven buildings resumed normally. However, the employees who work in the damaged lab were sent home for the day. Trane does not yet have a timetable for when the workers will return. The role of the facility's fire alarm system or any flame detector equipment was not reported.

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