Eighty firefighters stop cement plant blaze, US

Eighty firefighters stop cement plant blaze, US
Published: 31 July 2006

A stubborn coal fire in a concrete silo at Keystone Cement in East Allen Township kept dozens of firefighters busy for about seven hours Saturday. The fire started about 08.00 in bin filled with 30t of coal inside a five-story building, said township Assistant Fire Chief Ray Anthony.

Although about 80 firefighters from 10 companies from across Northampton County believed they had the fire under control about 10.15, the heat inside the coal bin went up again, Anthony said. Firefighters didn’t leave the cement-making facility along Route 329 for good until around 15.00. The plant employs about 180 workers, while producing about 2000 tons of cement per day.

Keystone General Manager Stephen J. Hayden Jr. said the fire, though stubborn, caused no damage. It also did not force Keystone to halt production, he said. ’’One of our workers noticed the fire contained in a concrete bunker, while he was doing his rounds,’’ Hayden said. ’’Rather than trying to extinguish it ourselves, we called local fire departments.’’

Keystone Cement has not had an environmental infraction for air or land pollution since 2002, when the company was fined US$95,000 after a salesman falsified data so unapproved waste could enter the plant, according to state environmental records. Before that, several residents filed petitions and spoke out against the company following a 1998 plant fire and another incident in 1997 where a fuel tank overheated. The 1997 incident caused 1600 people living near the plant to be temporarily evacuated, and resulted in a US$488,000 fine from DEP.