Nebraska Warehouse Fire Forces Evacuations

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) -- A warehouse fire that forced several families out of their homes early Tuesday was caused by a heater that came too close to a container of hydrochloric acid tank, said Fire Chief Kent Gilbert.

Several houses were evacuated after a fire erupted in the downtown plant that makes anchors, air pumps, electric winches and other products for the marine, farm, industrial and automobile industries.

There was danger from chemicals stored in the building, fire officials said.

Firefighters from Hastings, Juniata, Grand Island, Red Cloud, Blue Hill and Rural Metro fire departments were called to the fire at about 11 p.m. CDT Monday at the Dutton-Lainson Co. plant.

Fire crews used hazardous material gear to battle the flames, Police Chief Larry Thoren said. No injuries were reported.

Residents in nearby homes were evacuated because of the potential threat of toxic smoke from the fire, officials said.

The Salvation Army and Red Cross provided meals and found housing for at least 11 families affected by the blaze.

A couple of employees discovered the blaze in the production wing of the factory, Gilbert said.

Milan Norton, production manager, didn't know how long the facility would be closed. He said there was little damage to the building.