Community out-pouring saves plant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 1, 2002

In what could possibly have shut down one of Butler County's largest employers Sunday, dedication from International Paper's fire brigade and three area fire departments prevented certain tragedy.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. last Sunday, a call that sent shivers through the spines of every firefighter in the county came across the airwaves n a structure fire was reported at International Paper Company in Chapman.

The call came in after a fire was discovered in the chip bin system, which supplies fuel for steam boilers n basically the life's blood of the county's largest manufacturing employer.

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"We do not yet know what caused the fire; it's still under investigation," said Kristy Brown, complex human resources manager in Chapman, on Tuesday evening. "We are just so grateful for the support and help of all the volunteer firefighters n they really came through for us."

Brown said the members and equipment came from three fire departments, at the request of the company fire brigade members, who quickly determined that they would need further assistance in the battle.

"Some of the firefighters told me they knew this would hurt the community if it were to go down," Brown said, regarding conversations she had on-site with firefighters as they were pumping thousands of gallons of water into the silo-type storage bins. "Nearly every one of them had either worked here, or someone in their family was employed here."

Brown said it took the firefighters from the I.P. fire brigade and fire departments from Georgiana, Brushey-Mashey Creek and Greenville some 14 hours to bring the fire to an end.

"We are back in full production, and none of our nearly 400 employees have lost an hour's worth of work because of the fire," Brown said. "We just can't express enough how much we appreciate the efforts of the firefighters, most of which were volunteers, and had jobs to go to once they were through here."

International Paper Co., from its Chapman complex, manufactures plywood and lumber, supplying top-quality building materials to construction projects nationwide.