Fire Damages Pa. Corrugated Container Plant

March 30, 2013
Firefighters from the Birdsboro-Union Fire Department worked for hours to extinguish what evolved into a three-alarm fire in the Beacon Container Corp building that occupies most of a block.

March 30--Gregory Harhart could smell smoke from the passenger seat as he neared Beacon Container Corp. on Friday, waiting to be dropped off at Monroe and West Second streets in Birdsboro.

But as Harhart, 22, walked up his West Second Street block about 7:30 p.m., fire was nowhere to be found -- until he turned and saw black smoke billowing from the corrugated container plant's roof, flames shooting out from what appeared to be a vent.

Within moments of Harhart's 9-1-1 call, the Birdsboro-Union Fire Department had a truck at the intersection, working to extinguish what evolved into a three-alarm fire in the building that occupies most of a block.

It could have been much worse, said borough Fire Marshal Kenneth J. Templin.

The building has sprinklers, "but they don't do any good when the roof is on fire," he said. "If this had been at 11 or 12 at night, it would have been a whole different story.

"We could have been looking at a major fire. We could have lost the building."

Instead, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Hernandez said the flames were mostly confined to the roof running along Monroe Street, where Beacon operates its corrugating equipment.

With the fire beginning in the roof area, the sprinklers didn't activate at first, though an alarm system and calls from residents did lead to a swift response from Birdsboro-Union because the station is just blocks away from the plant.

No firefighters were injured battling the flames, Hernandez said, and all of the plant's 121 workers had Good Friday off.

As of late Friday, firefighters were still investigating the cause, but raised the possibility that it began in a fan or another piece of equipment in or near the roof.

Templin expected to know the cause of the fire today.

Joined by many of his employees, Beacon President and CEO Steven Walter could only watch the smoke from the sidewalk.

Flames shot back up shortly after 8:30 p.m. in a section closer to West First Street. The fire was under control about an hour later.

Walter was hopeful that any damage to equipment was minimal, based upon the fire's location.

But with little information available, he was unsure Friday night of how operations might be affected.

"We're not too bad," said Exeter Township firefighter Tim Shaffer, also a Beacon driver, as he walked past.

"Thank you," Walter said, shaking his hand. "I mean it. Thank you."

Contact C. Ryan Barber: 610-371-5081 or [email protected].

Copyright 2013 - Reading Eagle, Pa.

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