Factory Fire Forces Evac of 200 Homes

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 @ 05:06 PM gHale

A fire at C&R Plating Corp. forced an evacuation of 200 neighborhood homes in Columbia City, IN, early Saturday morning.

The evacuation notice was a precaution in case any of the chemicals at C&R Plating Corp. ended up involved in the fire.

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“There was, of course, a fear because that was what had happened previously,” Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said Saturday morning.

C&R Plating Corp. had a chemical fire two years ago that prompted another evacuation.

Firefighters from Columbia City’s fire department and Columbia, Thorncreek Township and Churubusco discovered the fire was only structural as they worked to combat the blaze. There were no chemicals involved in the blaze.

Until firefighters understood, as a precaution, they had to evacuate 200 homes in the area of the fire at 302 Factory Ave., Daniel said. The evacuation affected the southwest area of the city but ended up cancelled by 4:30 a.m.

“Until we really had a good grasp of what the issue was, we had to take the precautions we did,” he said, adding a dryer box for mechanical parts at the facility was the likely cause.

Firefighters got the call at 11:25 p.m. Friday. The fire was under control about two hours later, the mayor said.

Not everyone in the community knew of the evacuation attempts. Without a reverse emergency auto-dialing system in place in Whitley County, officials had to rely on door-to-door methods.

In light of comments on the Whitley County EMA’s Facebook page about not hearing knocks on the door, the agency recommended residents sign up for the free text message or email alerts the agency sends through a system called Nixle.

A chemical fire at C&R Plating in July 2013 also prompted brief evacuation and shelter-in-place orders, depending on where people lived.

The company performs nickel, zinc and other alloy finishing services for mechanical and automotive parts.

The fire most heavily burned the middle section of the building, with melted siding visible on the outside, as well as other damage.

Daniel said company officials are planning on repairing the building and getting operations started again.