Fire rips through Hempfield fabricating plant
A Hempfield metal fabricating plant off Route 119 sustained extensive damage Friday in a fire that was fueled by chemicals and propane and oxygen tanks, a Westmoreland County Emergency Management spokesman said.
The fire at E.H.C. Industries Inc. of 319 Westec Drive in Westmoreland County Technology Park I ignited chemicals, including paint thinner, said Dan Stevens, a spokesman for the county's emergency management department.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
“There's a partial building collapse of the left front corner of the building.” Stevens said. No one was reported injured in the fire, which was discovered at 3:54 p.m. Firefighters were in the “mopping- up phase” of the firefighting by 7:30 p.m., a public safety spokesman said.
Fire broke through a section of the metal roof as firefighters from numerous departments in the central part of the county had to put up with bitter-cold temperatures and gusting winds that created walls of smoke that enveloped both firefighters and their vehicles. Three aerial trucks poured water on the roof of the 32,000-square-foot facility while some firefighters were removing oxygen tanks from the rear of the building.
Murrysville Medic One had set up a warming tent for firefighters to get a break from the wind and cold.
None of the workers were inside the building when the fire began, said Bud Miller, the owner of E.H.C. Industries, which had been at the site since 2000. The 32 employees of the company, which makes industrial air cleaners, worked a day shift that was finished before the fire started.
As Miller gathered with a small group of his employees around two heaters outside the building, the owner said he could not estimate the damage from the fire. Miller said he plans to rebuild the plant, but he could not speculate on how long that might take.
Miller said that he could not simply move operations temporarily to another location, such as the former Sony Corp. plant across Route 119 from his site. While the former Sony plant has sufficient space for his operations, employees said that the business requires special machines such as lathes, rollers and other equipment.
E.H.C. employees had been looking forward to attending the company Christmas party at the Greensburg County Club last night but instead were watching their workplace burn.
One of them, Harry Jones of Scottdale, said he had been shopping when his daughter called him to make sure he was safe.
Jones said he had planned to go to Kentucky during a holiday vacation but would stay in the area if necessary to help with the cleanup.
Another employee, Bill Aleandri of Jeannette, who has worked for E.H.C. Industries since 1997, said he will hold on as long as possible to see whether the company will rebuild.
“We got a good boss,” Aleandri said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.