By MELISSA FRANCIS - For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
A massive cloud of black smoke billowed along Lake Erie Thursday, marking the location where more than 22 area fire departments, federal and local agencies spent the day monitoring a fire at a Hardy Road industrial plant.
“Thanks to the quick implementation of the company’s safety plan and a fast-acting fire department, employees were evacuated immediately and no one was injured this morning around 10 a.m. when a fire broke out at the Magnus plant where Hardy Industrial Technologies and Hardy Animal Nutrition manufacture natural animal feed ingredients, natural waxes, and alternative solid and liquid fuels,” reads a corporate press release.
Located just across the street from Painesville Township Fire Department station #3, the blaze was reported by plant employees at 9:43 a.m., said Painesville Township Lt. Frank Huffman, adding there were no injuries as of Thursday evening, except for two plant workers with minor injuries who denied treatment.
While the lieutenant said the cause of the fire is under investigation, and the extent of damage is unknown, one thing authorities do know is that the large amount of black smoke is burning hydrogenated vegetable oil, and therefore non-toxic or a threat to the area. A reverse 911 phone call reported this early in the day, also providing a phone number for residents to voice concerns and ask questions. While plant employees were evacuated, there were no residential evacuations, Huffman said.
Route 535 and Hardy Road were closed and some children were provided alternative transportation after school.
As of late afternoon, smoke still dominated the corner in-between Painesville Township Park and Lake County Speedway, but the lieutenant said he was pleased with the efforts.
“They are making great progress so far,” Huffman said, adding that foam mixed with water is being applied to the oil-based blaze, which “acts to smother the fire.”
“The most important thing is that our employees are safe and that the smoke from the fire doesn’t contain any hazardous or toxic materials,” said John Malloy, Magnus’ chief financial officer and spokesperson for the company.
This is the first industrial incident at the Hardy plant, which has been in Painesville Township since 2007.