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Plant Fires Causing Alarm

A coincidental recent spike?

Always a potential hazard when working in demanding conditions that involve combustible equipment, plant fires appear to have spiked in recent weeks. The recent spike could be mere coincidence, but some are raising questions related to safety protocols, understaffing, and more. Here's a short breakdown of some of the recent fires reported:

November 7: A fire broke out at the Symrise Colonel Island production site in southeastern Georgia, stemming from what the company called "an incident in chemical production for fragrance ingredients". While the fire triggered evacuations and alarm in the area (and made national headlines), Symrise assured the public in a statement the next day that the fire caused no danger for employees and residents, and that fire brigades were "always in control of the situation."

December 9: Marengo, Iowa: A five-hour long fire burned all night Thursday into Friday morning after a massive explosion at a Marengo alternative fuel plant. More than a dozen people were injured; dense, black smoke billowed for miles; and part of the city of 2,400 was evacuated after the explosion. Multiple injured people were being treated at the University of Iowa Hospital, with at least one person was in serious condition at the hospital's burn unit Friday, Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said. Authorities said no one died. "The City of Marengo would like to express our sincere gratitude to the six different counties and multiple volunteers and professional emergency services personnel for their preparedness and professionalism in battling the South Street explosion and fire," the city posted on Facebook Friday.

December 10: A fire broke out at a General Electric plant in Circleville, Ohio. Multiple departments were called to assist in the blaze, but he cause of the fire has not been immediately released.

December 12: Kalamazoo, Michigan firefighters reported a commercial fire at Landscape Forms as being under control after battling it the previous morning. The fire "extended into the roof and walls" of the Kalamazoo County business when it occurred early last week.

"There was a fire in machinery ductwork at Landscape Forms, on Lawndale Avenue, off East Michigan Avenue, on Dec. 12," officials with the Comstock Township Fire Department said. No further details have been provided at this time.

December 12: A three-alarm fire was reported at Westbrook Energy Center in Westbrook, Maine. The facility belongs to Calpine, a competitive power company which focuses on sustainability efforts. Calpine has yet to release a statement, but the Westbrook center uses two combustion turbines routed to two heat recovery steam generators, which provide steam to one steam turbine. The facility produces enough electric power to meet the needs of more than 500,000 homes throughout New England, according to Calpine's website. Notably, in 2009, Westbrook was named a Star Worksite under the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

December 13: This one is a bit more understandable, although no less frightening. A woodworking facility in Plain City, Ohio was reportedly "destroyed" by a massive fire last week, December 13. Firefighters from several area departments were dispatched just after 4 a.m., WBNS reported. Due to the intensity of the blaze, firefighters initiated a defensive attack. Several explosions were heard from inside. A tanker task force shuttled water to the scene as it's in a very rural area.

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