None injured in two-alarm fire

Monday, October 1, 2007 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 12:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A Columbia firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion after a fire at a Columbia factory late Monday morning.

More than a dozen Columbia fire vehicles were deployed to the two-alarm fire at Gates Rubber Co., 3015 LeMone Industrial Blvd., at about 11 a.m., according to a press release from the Columbia Fire Department.

No employees were injured in the blaze, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp.

A total of 43 firefighters responded to the call, and the fire was extinguished by 12:30 p.m., Sapp said.

The fire caused substantial damage to one of the batch mixers at the factory, but there was no damage to other parts of the building, Sapp said.

The fire started when a powder used to make rubber became hot enough to catch fire during the manufacturing process, according to the release. A secondary fire started in the air handling units above the machine, which recapture the powder for re-use and prevent it from polluting the air.

The factory’s 90 employees were evacuated during the fire.

The Fire Department was investigating the cause of the blaze Monday afternoon.

Sapp credited preparation by the factory and the Fire Department as the reason none of the factory employees were hurt. He said the Fire Department visits the plant every 18 months to tour the building and create plans in case of a fire.

“It helps the evaluation process, benefiting the fire personnel. It is a good testament to emergency planning and the firefighters,” Sapp said.

Sapp said that because of the chemicals involved in producing rubber at the factory, a fire like Monday’s is almost automatically a two-alarm fire.

The Fire Department did not have a monetary estimate of the damage Monday.

Sapp said the shipping department of the factory was operational by 2:30 p.m. Monday, and the company expected normal plant operations to resume Tuesday while the damaged area is repaired.

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