Sunday fire cripples REF

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004

A fire ripped through the REF plant at 301 Industrial Parkway late Sunday night leaving 60 employees unsure about their future.

The fire, which started sometime between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. ripped through the building causing an extensive amount of smoke and flame damage.

The fire apparently started in the maintenance room and spread throughout the roof, fire officials said.

The fire continued to grow in the roof and produced an extreme amount of heat making it very difficult to fight.

After a valiant struggle, it appeared as though the fire was under control.

However, sometime around midnight flames erupted from the roof above the break room adding to the damage and the effort needed by firefighters.

Despite the difficulties presented by the heat and smoke, firefighters were able to salvage enough of the building to prevent a total loss. However, the amount of damage remains to be seen.

&uot;At this point we can’t predict what the total damage will be,&uot; said owner Paul Flubacher. &uot;We will just have to take a good look at the equipment and go from there.&uot;

A steady wave of firefighters entered and exited the building until around 5:30 a.m. Monday in order to keep the fire under control.

The contents of the building kept the fire a constant threat.

&uot;There were a lot of fuels inside such as hydraulic oils and paints,&uot; sad Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips. &uot;It took us a while to get it under control.&uot;

Phillips was glad to report that it appears as if a lot of the equipment may be salvageable.

&uot;I think they will be able to save a lot of it,&uot; said Phillips. &uot;It’s a big operation with a lot of jobs and we hope to help them recover as soon as possible.&uot;

How fast the plant will open up again remains to be seen.

One of Flubacher’s main concerns was getting the equipment to a safe location.

&uot;We want to protect the equipment to limit the damage,&uot; said Flubacher. &uot;We would like to keep it out of the rain if possible. Everything we can do to spare the equipment will help us in getting back up.&uot;

Flubacher wanted his employees to know he was working hard to help get the plant running again.

&uot;We are going to work as fast as we can to get back in business,&uot; said Flubacher. &uot;It is too early to know when we can get going again, but we will do our best.&uot;

Along with the Greenville Fire Department, the Searcy and Liberty Fire Departments responded.

Flubacher was very thankful for the efforts of all involved.

&uot;I’d like to thank the Greenville Fire Department and all the people that helped us here,&uot; said Flubacher. &uot;This was not an easy fire to put out because of the tremendous amount of heat and smoke. We just want them to know that we appreciate it.&uot;

Assistant State Fire investigator Ed Paulk said that it could be days before the true cause of the fire is known.

&uot;We are just getting started here,&uot; said Paulk, &uot;We will have to have a thorough investigation before we can really say. But we will continue to work hard until we know something.&uot;