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Smoke fills Purina plant after malfunction

June 30, 1999

Purina Mills fireBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




Area firefighters were called to the Purina Mills Inc. plant on Hopewell Road Wednesday evening when smoldering feed filled a room with smoke.

Maintenance worker Scott Hershberger and two other employees were working at the 11671 Hopewell Road plant when they noticed the smell of burning feed around 7 p.m.

They found the source of the odor in a fourth floor room used to grind feed, Hershberger said.

In the grinding room, a grinding machine breaks down the product into pellets and then a conveyor distributes the material, he said.

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The conveyor apparently was not working, so the feed backed up and started to smolder, filling the room with smoke, he said.

Hershberger said he did not known why the grinder malfunctioned.

Employees contained the fire by shutting the doors and then called 911, he said.

The smoke in the room was too thick for them to put out the fire themselves, said Hershberger.

The 500 pounds of damaged feed was a small portion of the company's production, he said. A typical batch would be more than 3 tons, said Hershberger.

Firefighters from Hagerstown, Halfway, Maugansville and Williamsport used a 70-foot ladder to reach the fourth-story grinding room.

Firefighters were hampered by the fact the fire was burning near the elevator opening on the fourth floor, said Alan L. Matheny, spokesman for the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway.

Equipment was taken to the third floor and then hoisted by hand to the fourth floor, he said.

No flames were visible, so rescue workers waited until most of the smoke dissipated before entering, said Jeff Ringer, deputy chief of the Halfway company.

The smell of charred feed wafted from the building.

Ringer said he was unsure of the extent of damage to the building. Firefighters remained at the scene for more than 2 hours.

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