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Fire forces tech center evacuation

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A fire that erupted in a test cell Thursday afternoon resulted in the evacuation of more than 1,000 employees from the Cummins Tech  Center.

Columbus firefighters received the initial report of the fire at 2:13 p.m. When they arrived at the building, at 1900 McKinley Ave., the workers already were standing in the parking lot in front of the front gate and along a grassy hill near the intersection of McKinley Avenue and Pleasant Grove.

The fire involved an engine in Test Cell 210, said Wayne Eckerle, Cummins’ vice president of research and technology.

“It was really the smoke that caused us to evacuate,” he said. “There was no building damage to any extent, and nobody was hurt.”

The company has 88 engine test cells located along the building’s north side, while laboratories and other facilities are located on the south side.

Eckerle said engine fires erupting in test cells are not unusual.

“Often times, we’re running a test where we are really pushing the limits, and once in a while, we’ll have a fire,” Eckerle said. “All the test cells are set up for it. Each cell includes an automatic shutdown of the engine.”

The problem Thursday was that the diesel fuel, rather than the engine itself, was ignited and resulted in an excessive amount of smoke, Eckerle said.

Because the exact cause of the fire is not known, Test Cell 210 will remain shut while the company investigates the incident, said Cummins spokesman Jon Mills.

During the evacuation, fire alarms continued outside the Technical Center until 2:38 p.m.

The all-clear that allowed employees to return back to work was at 2:49 p.m., 36 minutes after the evacuation began.

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