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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fire Damages Pallet Business

A Plainwell business was heavily damaged in a fire Wednesday, March 14, that took more than seven hours to put out.

Plainwell Department of Public Safety director Bill Bomar said his officers were called to the Michigan Pallet facility in the city’s industrial park at about 8 p.m.

“A passerby called that there was smoke coming out the roof,” Bomar said. “We got there within a couple of minutes and verified it was on fire.”

Firefighters called in Otsego and Gun Plain Township’s departments to help and they were on scene until about 3:30 a.m.

Because of the nature of the business—manufacturing wooden pallets—the fire was a challenge.

“The amount of flammable product you have on site is immense,” Bomar said.

Michigan Pallet operations manager Ken Englesma said that the fire destroyed the older portion of the building where workers assemble pallets using nail guns. It represents about 20 to 25 percent of the facilities’ output.

The other section constructs pallets in a more mechanized process and seemed to have mostly escaped damage. Englesma said the plant’s office was also destroyed.

He said he wanted to commend the fire departments for not letting the fire spread.

“The fire departments really did a great job,” Englesma said. “It was pretty impressive. They were working hard and they were able to control the fire. They were able to push it back.”

The Plainwell facility employs 22 full-time people.

“We have three other pallet facilities in Michigan,” Englesma said. “We’re going to look at moving the work there.”

Some workers might have to do work at the plants in St. Charles or Clinton.

Only a mechanic was at the plant at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Bomar said that firefighter also escaped harm. He said that very preliminary indications suggested the fire started in an attic.

“If it started in the attic, usually that would mean it’s electrical,” he said.

Bomar said the Martin Area Fire Department was on standby for backup and sent a crew down to Plainwell to be ready if any other fire service was needed while the three local departments were busy.

The cause of the fire will be investigated further.

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