October 22, 2008 Buffalo, New York
News Links Industrial plant fire in North Tonawanda
YouNewsTV™Story Published: Oct 19, 2008 at 8:03 PM EDT

Story Updated: Oct 19, 2008 at 8:03 PM EDT
By Jenny Rizzo
Watch the story Fire sweeps through a large industrial plant in North Tonawanda, and the smoke from it was visible for miles today. Investigators are still trying to figure out what sparked the flames. The last person inside the plant left around 11am Saturday morning, so what caused something to catch fire between then and now is still a mystery.

Black smoke was pouring out of International Fiber Corporation's North Tonawanda plant all morning. Even though it was being drenched in water from two ladder trucks, the plant kept on burning. "Once you get that stuff going, it burns pretty rapidly," said Chief Christopher Fritz, of the North Tonawanda Fire Department.

Firefighters are having a tough time getting inside the processing facility, since the 1900s era plant is made up of a series of add-on rooms. "We have limited access to it because the only doorway has part of a wall collapsed on it on the other side. The building on this end, we just have fire coming through a wall but its not safe to enter," explained Fritz.

No one was inside the plant since Saturday morning so its unclear when and where this fire started. Smoke was first spotted around 6am. "What the fire department is doing right now is desperately trying to salvage the end of the facility where we can then continue manufacturing," said Kirsten Lenartowich, HR Director of International Fiber Corporation.

This plant is used to make raw fibrous material which is then sold and used as a filler in certain products. There's 65 employees at this location and many are worried about losing their jobs. "We don't know - should we call unemployment tomorrow or what should we do? As far as we know, we're out of a job right now. Especially if you have a family, now what do you do?" asked Leon Tennyson, a plant operator.

"We just hope they take care of us and give us what we deserve. That's what we're hoping," said Julian Elias, a plant operator.

Until firefighters put the blaze out, its hard for the company to assess how much damage has been done to the facility and the equipment.

"I would say within the next 24 hours we'll have a better idea of what's going to happen with meeting the needs of our customers, as well as our employees here," said Lenartowich.

The fire is now contained to a smaller area and reports are coming in from firefighters that several of the buildings are in good shape. The company president is flying in from California to address the situation. International Fiber is asking most employees not to report to work tomorrow, with the exception of the maintenance crew.

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