Mechanical Failure Led to Fiber Plant Fire, Hurt Worker

Friday, October 19, 2018 @ 04:10 PM gHale

A mechanical failure of production machinery appears to be the cause of Saturday’s industrial building fire and blast at Creafill Fibers Corp. in Worton, MD, that led to one worker getting injured, officials said.

The manufacturing plant in the 10000-block of Worton Road makes cellulose fibers, said Lori Toevs, controller and director of human resources.

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One plant employee ended up injured as a result of a subsequent dust explosion. The employee was thrown back into a pallet of product, Toevs said.

The employee was transported by ambulance to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, where he was treated and released.

Volunteer firefighters from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, Kent-Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad and Kent EMS responded.

The fire was brought under control in two hours, according to the fire marshal’s report. Crews were on the scene for about three hours.

Other than the worker, there were no reported injuries to firefighters or emergency personnel.

The alarm sounded at 3:09 p.m. Saturday after an employee observed a small fire inside a production machine.

The employee powered off the machine. Upon opening a filter cover within the machine to investigate further, he was “flown back” as a result of a pressure wave created by a subsequent dust explosion, according to the fire marshal’s preliminary report.

The employee was able to escape the building and call 911.

Proper activation of the sprinkler system and pressure relief vent system is credited with limiting damage to the 75 foot-by-200 foot steel frame building and its contents.

In-house the building is called the “white line,” Toevs said. That’s where product (cellulose fiber) is made out of natural pulp. Toevs said the operation is 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Manufacturing started at the Worton site in 1995. Currently there are 35 employees, Toevs said.

The “white line” was not operating Monday and Tuesday due to cleanup.

Toevs said Wednesday the expectation was to start “producing product” by the end of the week.
She estimated the value of damaged equipment to be $20,000, what she guessed it would cost to replace the explosion caps on filters.

“We’re just starting to assess … we’re not sure what we’ve lost,” Toevs said. “We didn’t lose a lot of finished product but we lost raw materials.”

Also to be calculated is the cost of cleanup.

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