Fire damages Pa. rubber plant

August 06, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

A three-alarm fire ripped through a Chambersburg rubber plant Monday morning, requiring the efforts of more than a dozen fire companies to put it out.

The fire at Landstar Polymer Recovery at 811 Progress Road, was reported at 6:21 a.m., Chambersburg Fire Chief William Dubbs said.

The cause of the fire was undetermined Monday, and there was no damage estimate, Dubbs said. The Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal was investigating.


A shift was operating in the plant when the fire broke out, but no one was injured, Dubbs said.

Dubbs said the heat, thick black smoke and difficulty getting to the fire led to the number of alarms needed to fight the blaze.

He said the plant takes chunks of old rubber tires and processes them into a fine, granulated rubber powder.

Dubbs said that over time, the powder accumulates on surfaces in the building, including the machinery, electrical outlets and roof beams.

"When the powder burns, it just takes off," he said.

Most of the fire was in the roof insulation, which made the sprinkler system ineffective and the fire difficult to get to, Dubbs said.

The rubber produced a thick black smoke that limited visibility inside the plant, which is at the end of Progress Road in the south end of the borough.

Fire personnel cut holes in the roof and opened vents to clear the smoke, Dubbs said. Firefighters had the fire under control at 8 a.m.

He said fire crews were rotated on the roof because of the heat, with temperatures well into the 80s by mid-morning.

Dubbs said there was heavy water damage throughout the plant from both the fire hoses and the building's sprinkler system.

Dubbs said Landstar was calling in a structural engineer to determine if the fire did any damage to the building's structure. He did not know if any of the plant's equipment was destroyed.

"They will be out of business for a while," Dubbs said.

Plant Manager Gary Smith said Monday afternoon the business would be closed for a minimum of three days and as long as two weeks. He said electrical inspectors were trying to determine whether the plant's electrical system was operational.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was on the scene to check whether runoff from the water used to fight the fire contained any harmful byproducts from the rubber product that could filter into the nearby Conococheague Creek. Dubbs said the DEP determined there were no harmful byproducts in the runoff.

Dubbs said firefighters put down absorbent booms - tubular stretches of a white material that absorb chemicals.

Fire companies from Franklin and Adams counties responded, including Chambersburg, Franklin, New Franklin, Letterkenny Army Depot, Fayetteville, Marion, St. Thomas, Mont Alto, Shippensburg, West End Shippensburg, Greencastle, Pleasant Hall, Waynesboro and Buchanan Valley.

Landstar operates plants nationwide. The company produces crumb rubber, the basic material used in the manufacture of recycled rubber products and applications.

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