Fire damages cheese plant

August 20, 1997


Staff Writer

HANCOCK - Welding at a cheese plant here may have sparked a smouldering fire in the roof of the factory Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said.

Firefighters had to cut a narrow fire break around the section of burning roof to extinguish the blaze at the Jefferson Cheese - Jolina plant, said Brian Reed, deputy chief of the Hancock Volunteer Fire Co.

About a 50-square-foot section of the roof was burned, causing an estimated $20,000 in damages, said fire officials.

None of the plant's vital operations were damaged, although a worker was taken to War Memorial Hospital in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to be treated for smoke inhalation, officials said.


Other workers were finishing a batch of cheese in another part of the building while firefighters were extinguishing the fire, said Jefferson Cheese President Bruce DeStafeno.

"There's no reason why we couldn't run the plant tomorrow, said DeStefano.

The fire apparently was caused by welders who have been working at the plant this week, according to officials and Faron Taylor, deputy state Fire Marshal.

DeStafeno said the workers were removing old refrigeration equipment as part of a renovation to the 60,000-square-foot building, which is off Resley Street.

Steve Staley of S&M Welding in Big Pool said his employees were working in the building Monday. When the welders came to the plant about 10 a.m. Tuesday, they noticed a smell of smoke in the area, said Staley.

Staley said his workers doused insulation in the roof with water. A short time later, a plant worker smelled smoke again and called fire officials, said Staley.

Jefferson Cheese manufactures mozzarella cheese for the pizza industry. Its product is sold to distributors across the country, Destafeno said.

The company used to be in Hagerstown, but moved to its current location in 1991.

The Herald-Mail Articles