Six fire departments respond to blaze at Hydro

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
With a fire hose hooked to a hydrant on the east side of Industrial Drive, a Monett fire truck drove into the Hydro Aluminum plant on June 14 to begin battling the blaze in the former paint building. Democrat Photo/Murray Bishoff

A Friday afternoon in the summer became anything but lazy for Monett firefighters on June 14. A major fire erupted at the Hydro Aluminum plant in the Monett Industrial Park around 3:45 p.m. that resulted in six fire departments responding.

The fire developed in the insulation of the roof in what had been used as the paint building. Built in the mid-1980s, the structure has been out of use since October 2012 when Hydro shut down its extrusion operations.

According to Steve Reid, Hydro plant manager, crews have been working in the building removing all of the old paint line equipment.

"We were in the last hour of the project," Reid said.

Contractors and maintenance people inside the building alerted management to the fire. Sixty people still work in the remelt division of the plant, located on the northwest end of the complex. The remelt crew and administration, located in recently completed offices on the south side of the plant were evacuated.

The fire sent a dark plume of smoke 100 feet into the air.

Monett city and rural firefighters responded immediately to the scene. Pierce City Fire District firefighters responded as well.

Reid said the building had been gutted of its equipment, How the fire started was unclear.

"There was nothing on the ground to go up," Reid said.

Firefighters attacked the fire from below and above. The building was covered with a rubber membrane, which proved difficult to penetrate. Smoke vented through several places as firemen tried to access where the fire burned. Fumes from years of painting may have made the insulation more flammable, Reid said, but he would defer to the experts about what caused the fire.

Fire Chief Tom Jones called for additional manpower from the Purdy Fire District and the Aurora Fire Department to switch out firefighters. Freistatt firefighters came to staff Monett's station in case additional calls came in.

After an hour, the fire was contained. Reid sent the remelt personnel back to work. Firefighters remained at the plant for four and a half hours, tearing off the roof to drown the remaining hot spots in the insultation. The west end of the paint building roof became weak, making wrap-up efforts more difficult.

"The firemen got here very quick," Reid said. "They've done a very good job."

"The fire was stubborn and hard to put out," Jones said. "It burned the insulation on the inside around the edges of the building. Then it got into the boards running across the roof and got under the rubber. It was pretty much hidden."

Jones said Barry-Lawrence Ambulance crews at the scene operated a rehab station. Firemen coming out of the building were directed to the ambulances for water and rest as other firemen took their place on the line.

"The men did a terrific job for what they were dealing with," Jones said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: