Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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October 19, 2012

Fire at local company takes hours to combat

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville firefighters spent as long as seven hours Wednesday combatting the smoke and hot spots from an accidental fire at Western Pulp Products Company, 1577 North Bolton — although authorities reported no major structural damage to the building and no injuries.

There were numerous scorch marks on the pavement around the building from hot pulp spilled during the extensive firefighting efforts. The area remained in a general smokey haze for much of the seven hour period, slowing traffic along that portion of North Bolton.

The fire was believed to have been accidentally caused by a pile of  cardboard product that caught fire. Such product is Western Pulp's stock in trade. Roughly 14 Jacksonville firefighters were called to the scene, authorities said.

“There were little pockets of fire, which is why it took so long to put the whole thing out — we had to ventilate and get some of the smoke out,” explained Jacksonville Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Tate. “Every time we would get some smoke cleared out, we would run across another pocket of fire. We would put water on it and it would smoke again. It was on and off just like that.”

Firefighters had to take the time to remove the smoldering cardboard while causing the least amount of damage to the building, Tate said. At one point they were forced to go to the roof of the building to ventilate.

Kyle Kirk, plant manager, could not immediately be reached Thursday to comment on the effect, if any, the fire will have on company production. The Jacksonville office of the company employs 46, according to its Jacksonville Economic Development Corporation profile.

According to its website, Western Pulp Products — headquartered in Oregon with facilities in both Texas and North Carolina —  has manufactured “molded pulp product” since 1958. The pulp products are molded from recycled waste paper “in order to produce environmentally friendly products.”

The national molded fiber manufacturer makes corner pads, edge guards, molded fiber and floral and plant containers, the profile shows.

Tate said company employees package the cardboard and stack it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

“It is sometimes hotter than most,” Tate said. “They start piling the cardboard, stacking it while it is still hot and it sits and starts smoldering and sometimes starts a fire.”

While the inside metal wall of the business was burned black from fire and smoke, the damage was not major and could have been a lot worse, Tate said. The firefighters were at the scene between 2:30 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

There were three fire vehicles, including a ladder truck on the scene to allow access to the one-story building's roof.

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