July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Fire breaks out at REP

LORAIN — A steady stream of black smoke poured out of Republic Engineered Products on Wednesday as firefighters battled a blaze raging inside the steel mill.

It took firefighters 3½ hours to put out the fire inside the plant’s primary rolling mill building.

JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Smoke rises from a fire at Republic Engineered Products in Lorain on Wednesday.

Assistant Fire Chief Gary Burls said the fire started shortly before 1 p.m. and involved three large rolling mill machines, which are used to turn square stock into round steel bars.

An accumulation of grease and lubricants under the three truck-sized machines caught fire while maintenance crews were performing repairs. The blaze sent flames shooting 15 to 20 feet into the air.

Burls said each machine sits over a pit of grease and oil that is collected as it drips off the machines as they operate. When firefighters arrived, Burls said, all three machines were fully engulfed in flames.

The oil-and-grease fire posed some difficulty for firefighters.

“We had to use foam on it because grease fires are typically difficult to suppress,” Burls said. “We had to use foam, because when you hit burning grease with water, the grease wants to float to the surface and splatters the fire all over the place.”

Much of the work done in the more than three hours on scene was keeping the fire confined to the one building. While the blaze was difficult to put out, Burls said the fire didn’t damage the building, and no one was hurt.

Burls said only the one building where the fire was had to be evacuated. Work continued as usual in other parts of the steel mill.

The hot, muggy temperature outside combined with the hot air inside the building also posed another danger for firefighters. The Red Cross came in to help, offering much-needed bottled water to firefighters.

Firefighters from the Elyria Fire Department also responded to the scene while Sheffield and Vermilion fire departments provided coverage for the rest of the city.

Damage estimates were not available Wednesday.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.