Wisconsin Plant Fire Triggers Concern

Neighbors are worried about the chemicals used.


A fire at the Madison-Kipp Corporation plant on the city's East Side injured one worker and left some members of a neighborhood shaken Wednesday night.

The blaze broke out at the plant, a foundry off Atwood Avenue, just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, WISC-TV reported.

People who live and work near the Madison-Kipp plant have long complained about pollution and chemicals used in the building, and residents said the machinery fire has stirred up more bad feelings.

"It will put us all on edge again to what's going on over there," said Tersea Pullara-Ouabel, owner of Bunky's Cafe, which is across the street from the plant.

Authorities evacuated 60 second-shift workers when aluminum dust sparked a fire in a dust collector, WISC-TV reported.

"The fine dust just sparked and started the filtering system on fire," said Mark Meunier, human resources VP for Madison-Kipp Corporation.

The foundry melts metal for auto parts and uses substances like magnesium and aluminum, substances that have made the plant a target for neighborhood concerns about pollution.

Fire officials said that the fire and smoke were contained to the machine but involved aluminum and magnesium, which required a special fire extinguisher.

"If you try to use water to extinguish them, it can cause a violent explosion," said Eric Dahl, public information officer for the fire department.

There was no violent explosion, but neighborhood residents said the incident renewed concerns about the plant.

A hazardous incident team was called to the scene to evaluate the situation.

"We do have some chemicals in other areas of the building, which were nowhere near this. So, they came on a precautionary measure and possibly take air quality readings so we knew when it was safe to go back into the building," Meunier said.

Authorities said it was safe for workers and management to go back into the building after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

One worker suffered a flash burn, but the company said he was treated and released from a hospital.

Meunier said the dust collector is routinely maintained. He said the fire was an accident and that workers were safely evacuated and any threat was quickly contained.

The company estimated that the fire caused $20,000 in damage.

The aluminum and zinc die casting factory has been on Madison's East Side for 104 years, WISC-TV reported.

Madison-Kipp said it is a good neighbor by helping build the economy with 600 jobs.

But many living near the plant have been complaining for years that its smokestacks are the source of many neighborhood health problems.

The Department of Natural Resources and Madison-Kipp said that no air quality standards have ever been violated.