Sunday, August 01, 1999

Three treated at paper mill fire

Cause is yet to be determined

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Firefighters pour water on smoldering paper that caught fire Saturday at the Rock-Tenn plant on Madison Road in Oakley.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Massive piles of paper and cardboard outside the Rock-Tenn paper mill in Oakley ignited Saturday and spread to part of the building before being contained by firefighters.

        The five-alarm blaze sent one employee to University Hospital because of smoke inhalation. Two firefighters had to be treated for heat exhaustion after having to work in near-100-degree temperature.

        The cause of the fire had not been determined, Cincinnati Fire Chief Robert Wright said.

        In June, heat from bearings on rollers on a machine were blamed for a $15,000 blaze at Rock-Tenn. The mill is in the 3300 block of Madison Road.

        Chief Wright expected to be fighting the fire until this afternoon because the material is so flammable and the amount so large. The hundreds of paper bales awaiting recycling each weigh more than a ton. Firefighters were bringing in a forklift to remove the outer bales to get at the fire burning in the center.

Cincinnati Firefighter Greg Williams douses his head during the five-alarm blaze.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The fire started about 3 p.m. and expanded to the rear of the mill as 13 employees were processing recycled paper. Mill operators didn't know Saturday how badly the damage would affect their business, general manager Wanda Clossey said.

        The temperature of the fire combined with the blistering afternoon heat tested the firefighters' endurance. About 130 were at the scene so that each would have shorter turns facing the fire.

        Chief Wright instructed them to keep drinking fluids and spend as much time as possible out of their heavy protective gear.

        Ambulances were there to check the firefighters' blood pressure before they went back to work. Three air-conditioned Metro buses were on the street to help them cool down.

        “The heat definitely makes it more physically taxing for us,” said firefighter Bob Andrew.

Firefighters worked in shifts to protect themselves from the sweltering heat.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        “And with the high winds today, it blows the heat of the fire right at you. But I find that working out and staying in top shape helps you prepare for this.”

        Still, most firefighters would prefer doing their job in the heat than in the chill of winter.

        “I prefer the heat wave. You can always peel clothes off in the heat, but you can never put on enough clothes in the cold,” Mr. Andrew said.


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- Three treated at paper mill fire