Firefighters from three different departments battled a large blaze at TB Plastic Extrusions of Michiana on Saturday night that left little damage to nearby buildings and vehicles.
The Osolo Township Fire Department was called out to a fire at 54432 Adams Road, just north of Bristol Street, a few minutes after 10 p.m. As crews pulled out of the station and headed south to the business, they saw the glow illuminate a cloud of black smoke from the fire and immediately called Cleveland Township and Bristol Fire Departments for assistance, said Assistant Chief Jo Johnston with the Osolo Township Fire Department.
When they arrived, crews found a large pile of skids, wooden pallets, scrap plastic and industrial-size trash dumpster ablaze in a 60-foot by 60-foot area at the middle of a paved parking lot near the back of the property, he added.
The fire was already burning large and hot. A fire hydrant right outside the property on Adams Road allowed the fire departments to bring in an aerial truck.
"We dumped about 600 gallons of water a minute on it for about two hours,” Johnston said.
Johnston added that crews were concerned about the fire at first because plastic becomes molten when it burns. When water hits the plastic, it cools and can block water from the flames.
“It’s like sticking a hot fudge sundae into the freezer,” he said. “It forms a hard shell on the outside, but it’s still burning on the inside.”
Usually, that means that firefighters have to hit the fire from multiple angles and sometimes even bring in a front-end loader to turn the burning material around.
But at TB Plastic Extrusions, fire crews were lucky, Johnston said. The aerial crew’s perseverance ensured that the fire was put out in a few hours.
While many firefighters worked on extinguishing the flames, others inspected the nearby buildings and confirmed that the fire and heat didn’t affect the interiors.
The heat from the flames melted part of the lenses on the headlights and turn signals of a truck that was parked nearby, Johnston said, and a boat parked near the fire also had some melting damage.
He added that the owners of TB Plastic Extrusions may find some char marks on the outside of the two buildings closest to where the fire was, but there was otherwise no damage to anything of value.
Johnston said that the Elkhart County Health Department was notified that there may be some runoff into the creek behind the property.
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department was called out to investigate the fire, which is routine for business fires. Johnston said that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
The last crews left TB Plastic Extrusions around 3 a.m.
“We were making plans to be there all night,” Johnston said. “We were very lucky that it wasn’t worse.”