Columbus firefighters don’t yet have a cause for a Monday fire that destroyed stacks of Faurecia parts stored outdoors at the Gladstone Avenue plant.
Preliminary damage estimates are about $250,000, the majority of that calculated from damaged and destroyed parts and a semitrailer that burned, Columbus fire-fighters said.
The fire started in tall stacks of plastic bins that were stored in an outdoor staging area at the Faurecia Emission Controls Technologies plant, said Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the fire department. Metal parts were stored in each of the plastic bins.
Firefighters had the fire under control in about 15 minutes after it was reported at 10:16 a.m., Wilson said.
As a precaution, the fire department evacuated plant employees who worked indoors near the storage area and relocated them across Gladstone Avenue away from the smoke, Wilson said.
They also asked nearby residents to leave their homes for safety reasons.
A large section of the storage area was covered in flames when firefighters arrived.
Black smoke billowed above the plant, at 601 S. Gladstone Ave., and nearby buildings, including a Cummins Inc. building next door, and homes along State Street.
“It looked a lot worse than it was,” Wilson said.
The fire is believed to have started in the south section of the outdoor staging area, which is next to the Faurecia building, Wilson said.
The company has the area under video surveillance, but firefighters did not see anything on the footage indicating how the fire started, Wilson said.
The fire was discovered by forklift operator Sam Sapp who was working in the storage area, Faurecia management told firefighters.
Sapp saw smoke as he drove by the storage units and yelled “fire” several times. Another Faurecia employee brought a fire extinguisher, but when more containers were engulfed in flames the fire department was called.
The fire melted the bins and scorched the parts, which fell in piles around the melted plastic.
Four fire engines, a squad vehicle for support and the battalion chief — 15 firefighters in total — were at the scene, all wearing breathing masks for lung protection.
The smoke had the capability to singe the inside of firefighters’ lungs and was also “very hazardous” when breathed in at close proximity because of the plastic, Wilson said.
Smoke from plastic can contain hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide gas, he added.
Faurecia employees were allowed to return to the plant after about 45 minutes. Neighbors who left their homes during the fire were allowed back home shortly after plant workers returned.
No firefighters were injured, Wilson said.
Two members of one family who lived nearby were treated by ambulance personnel at the scene for coming into contact with floating embers and irritation from the smoke.
Because the fire was deep in the melted plastic, Columbus firefighters were on the scene raking at the debris and cooling it with water for a little more than three hours to ensure the fire wouldn’t rekindle, Wilson said.
Faurecia employees used a plow tractor to move debris so that firefighters could reach the hot spots.
Firefighters were on the scene for about three hours.