Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 2, 2014

Fire strikes Elkhart factory after roof collapse

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Goshen News

---- — ELKHART, Ind.— A northern Indiana fiberglass factory went up in flames Sunday, prompting evacuations of nearby homes and concerns of possible toxins being released into the air.

The fire at the Lami Plast plant in Elkhart produced thick black smoke visible for miles.

"We have agencies from the Indiana Department of Emergency Management that are driving around now taking air samples," Assistant Fire Chief Jo Johnston of the Osolo Township Fire Department said.

"We did evacuate the people on the south side of the building as a precaution. There is nothing that we know of that is stand-alone toxic. Obviously, nobody wants to breathe any of this and nobody should breathe any of it," Johnson said.

Firefighters went to the factory late Saturday because its metal roof collapsed under the weight of snow near a gas meter, Johnston said. There was no sign of a fire then or problems with the gas, the chief said.

However, a passer-by reported flames shooting into the sky about 2 a.m. Sunday.

"The vast majority of the building was involved upon our arrival," Johnston said.

Matthew Schrock lives nearby, said he heard a loud noise around 1 a.m. and looked outside.

"It kind of sounded like metal falling or small explosion," Shrock said.

Firefighters from more than 10 departments responded to the blaze. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries when they were struck by a hose, Johnson said.

Firefighters were expected to remain on the scene through late Sunday or this morning.

Kathryn Wells, the plant's manager, said the building was "a total loss."

The building contained fiberglass that the company produces for northern Indiana's recreational vehicle industry, Wells said. About 18 employees generally worked out of the building.