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Fire erupts at Smith Glass

| Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fire broke out from an old natural gas line at L.E. Smith Glass Co. in Mt. Pleasant Tuesday.

Gerald Lucia, Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department chief and borough mayor, said the incident occurred about 2 p.m. yesterday in the production end of the plant that was vacant. Six workers, employees from Smith Glass and from an outside contractor, were removing gas lines to make way for storage space.

"They thought the line was dead," Lucia said of the gas pressure in the line.

Lucia said when workers cut the end of the pipe, it popped off, creating a spark and a stream of fire.

"You can shut a valve off as tight as you think it can be, but when they're old like that, you don't always know for sure," Lucia said. "That gas line is at least 50 years old."

When the line ruptured, Lucia said the fire went straight up to the roof. No one was injured, however.

Lucia said the fire spread to the wooden sections of the more than 100-year-old building. Fire also caused extensive damage to the wooden window frames.

Bill Kelman, owner of Smith Glass, said the incident was ironic because they were clearing the gas lines from the building to improve and renovate the facility; they were bringing in more equipment to meet the demand for the pressed and decorated glass products.

While Kelman didn't have all the details of the damage, he said the fire wouldn't affect production.

"Nobody was hurt, and that's the big thing," Kelman said. "The safety and the morale of the employees is the important thing now."

Kelman said he believed the 40 people employed at the glass plant were evacuated when the fire was discovered. He was contacted about the fire and soon arrived to the plant from another glass plant.

Lucia said firefighters were able to get the fire under control within 15 minutes.

Kelman expressed his gratitude for the quick response of the firefighters.

"Mt. Pleasant is an exceptional fire department," Kelman said.

Along with Mt. Pleasant, fire departments from East Huntingdon Township, Scottdale, Norvelt, Bullskin Township, Kecksburg and Trauger, and Mt. Pleasant EMS Ambulance responded to the scene.

Lucia said it could have been a lot worse.

"They were really lucky," Lucia said of the six workers.

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