LUMBERTON — An oven fire at the REMPAC Foam plant on Starlite Drive late Thursday afternoon forced the evacuation of about 35 employees, according to the company’s senior vice president, and will delay production for a while.
The fire was quickly “contained and suppressed” in the 60-foot-long box oven by employees using fire extinguishers, Mike Van Etten said. No one was injured.
However, the Lumberton Fire Department had to be called when flames became “localized above the oven and spread under ceiling installation,” he said.
“There was nothing we could do when the roof caught on fire,” Van Etten said. “We had to call the fire department.”
The fire started about 4:45 p.m, he said. The Lumberton Fire Department was on site within minutes.
According to Van Etten, the major damage to the plant will be the roof. He will not have a good estimate of repair costs until he can get up on the roof and survey the damage.
“That roof was put on about three years ago and cost a quarter of a million dollars,” he said. “I don’t think it will cost that much to repair because there probably isn’t damage to the entire roof.”
This was the first time in the 20 years his company has been in the building at 2005 Starlite Drive that there has been the need to call the fire department to extinguish a fire, Van Etten said.
“Our employees have extensive fire training. Some are even members of volunteer fire departments,” he said. “They knew what to do in this situation. If the fire had not been contained in the oven this situation could have been worse. It could have been real ugly.”
He expects the the Starlite Drive plant will be shut down for about a week. Work will continue at the company’s two other Robeson County sites.
“Employees who work at the Starlite Drive plant should call their supervisor before they come to work,” he said.
According to the company’s website, it produces “he highest quality, cost-effective converted flexible foam plastic products and services which meet or exceed the needs of our customers. We offer our customers a broad range of open and closed cell foamed plastic and sponge rubber materials, unique conversion processes and a corporate commitment to excellent customer service and thorough quality assurance.”
A handful of firefighters still were on the scene at about 6:30 p.m. Attempts by The Robesonian to contact Lumberton Fire Department Chief Paul Ivey and Assistant Fire Chief Chris West to get more details were unsuccessful.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.