A fire broke out inside Load King Manufacturing early Wednesday morning, less than an hour before employees were set to show up at the Jacksonville, FL-based plastics plant.
The fire alarms and sprinklers were set off at the warehouse at 4:20 a.m. Wednesday. Load King is a major distributor of high density plastics. The fumes from materials can be toxic when set on fire.
Facility manager Tommy Roberts said he got the call minutes after the flames broke out.
“Anything could have sparked it,” he said. “A cigarette could have been sucked up under the building. We just don’t know.”
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is investigating the cause. About 50 firefighters were at the scene battling the flames and smoke.
The fire started under some floorboards in a part of the warehouse that was not near plastic items, one Load King employee said. Firefighters had to drill holes in the floor to crawl beneath the floorboards.
“It could be electrical, we really don’t know. But like I said, it’s old wood so anything could have sparked it,” Roberts said.
More than 150 employees were turned around at the gate Wednesday, but Roberts doesn’t anticipate the fire will impact distribution and the state fire marshal said the building could be back up and running later on that day.
“It won’t hurt us at all. We do a lot of prepackaging so pretty much everything is stored in another building that ships out,” Roberts said. “Once they get it under control, get the smoke out of the building, we’ll recover pretty quick.”
Firefighters said that the most substantial damage was to the floor.
“About 70 percent of the floor system has been on fire,” said Chief Robin Gainey of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue. “The damage is to the structural components of the floor itself. They are heavy timbers built back in. They’re built long enough ago there’s no sagging, there’s no structural collapse of the floor.”