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Torch ignites chemicals in tanning machine

March 19, 1998

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Damage was limited to a second-floor leather tanning machine Wednesday at Just Wood Industries, 209 Oregon St., according to Mercersburg Montgomery Peters Warren Fire Chief Nick Barbuzanes.

The fire was called in at 11:45 a.m. at the cabinet-making factory and was brought under control in about 20 minutes, Barbuzanes said. He said a cutting torch was being used near the machine when petroleum-based chemicals in the unused machine caught fire.

Barbuzanes said workers at the plant tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out with extinguishers. He said the fire spread into a ventilating chute above the machine that had a lacquer buildup in its walls.

The building is made of cinderblock with a steel roof and damage to the structure was minimal, Barbuzanes said. He added that it was fortunate the fire did not spread to the first floor, where wood and sawdust could have fueled a much bigger fire.

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Just Wood Industries is in a building that was once part of a tannery. Barbuzanes said the company was renovating the second floor.

Firefighters were on the scene until about 2:30 p.m.

No employees or firefighters were injured.

Firefighters from Greencastle, St. Thomas and the Franklin Fire Co. in Chambersburg assisted at the scene.

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