July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Foundry blaze extinguished in overnight effort

ELYRIA — Area firefighters had a sleepless night Friday as they worked through the night to contain a fire that had burned through the Elyria Foundry.

The fire was reported at 9:45 p.m. in one of the rooms of the Foundry, at 120 Filbert St.

Five fire departments — Elyria, Elyria Township, Sheffield, Avon and Lorain — set up a perimeter around the building, and roads were closed around 11:15 p.m. to clear them for rescue crews. Shortly after, a small explosion was reported inside the building.

Fire crews eventually controlled the blaze at 5 a.m. Saturday, but crews remained on the scene Saturday afternoon to extinguish several spots that were hard for crews to reach because of fallen debris.

Elyria Assistant Fire Chief Ron Brlas said the Elyria Fire Prevention Bureau is working to determine a cause. In a large building like the foundry, that may take time, especially after pieces of roof collapsed, making it difficult for investigators to process the scene, he said.

Brlas didn’t have a cost of damages, but estimated it to be “in the millions.”

No one was injured, and workers were safety evacuated, according to a statement from the Elyria Foundry.

“We are grateful to our associates who followed appropriate protocol when the incident occurred, and to the emergency responders, especially the Fire Departments from Elyria, Elyria Township, Sheffield, Avon and Lorain, who arrived quickly to the scene,” the release stated. “The safety of our people is and always will be our primary concern, and we are incredibly thankful that no one was injured during this incident.”

The foundry will conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire and will not resume operations in the affected areas of the facility until they are deemed safe, said the release.

Brlas said he believed some production would continue in some of the factory’s unaffected areas.

Foundry officials did not return calls seeking additional information.

The foundry has been the scene of several accidents throughout the years, including fires in 2006, 2008 and in January.

The foundry also was fined in May 2011 by the Ohio Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a worker’s arm was stuck in machinery deemed unsafe by the agency.

Brlas said there were concerns about chemicals contained in the building when Friday’s fire started.

Several small explosions rocked the building, including one that propelled an unknown object through concrete.

“There were several aspects to the call because there were several hazardous materials and high pressure systems,” he said.

Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said there were numerous chemicals in the plant, including nitrogen, but nothing that posed a danger to nearby residents.
After the fire, the pH levels of groundwater near the foundry and those tests came back at normal levels, she said.

“The Elyria Foundry people were great. There were forthright about everything with us,” she said. “That helped make everything go a lot smoother.”

Siwierka said roads that were closed near the plant during the fire were open by 8 a.m. Saturday.

Brlas credited the teamwork of area departments to controlling the blaze without injuries to rescue workers.

“So far, we feel pretty good,” he said. “The teamwork was pretty amazing. Everyone did a great job.”

Founded in 1905, the Elyria Foundry produces of medium- and large-sized complex gray and ductile iron castings primarily used in energy market applications, such as natural gas compression equipment and coal pulverizers for electric power generation.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.