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Quick action kept a fire possibly ignited by sparks from a welding machine in a Norton Shores, MI, manufacturing facility from becoming a raging problem Sunday night, officials said.

The fire in a ventilation system at Acemco Inc. created an enormous amount of smoke that concerned firefighters who arrived on the scene just after 10:30 p.m., said Norton Shores Fire Chief Bob Gagnon.

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Smoke was pouring out doors of the metal products facility when employees led firefighters in a side door where they saw significant fire in the ventilation system over a welding area, Gagnon said. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire, keeping in mind concerns of company staff that robotic equipment inside could end up damaged by water, Gagnon said.

The fire chief said employees’ quick call to 911 followed by fast and efficient work by fire personnel prevented the fire from causing significant damage to the metal stamping facility. A recent fire that demolished Muskegon Castings Corp. is fresh in firefighters’ minds.

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“If it went unattended for much longer, we would have had a much bigger problem,” Gagnon said of the Acemco fire. Fruitport and Ferrysburg firefighters assisted at the scene as did Canteen 450. Fruitport, Muskegon Heights and Spring Lake fire departments backfilled Norton Shores stations, Gagnon said. Firefighters cleared the scene after more than two hours, having spent most of their time clearing smoke from the building, he said.

Production at the facility was pretty much back to normal Monday morning, said Joe Dear, vice president of manufacturing for Acemco. Two welding cells are out of commission, likely until Tuesday, he said.

Dear said he believes a welding spark caused the fire.

“The Norton Shores Fire Department did an awesome job,” he said. “It wasn’t, thank God, a roaring fire, but it could’ve gotten bad.”

The fire was in the smaller, north building of the two-building complex. Between 15 and 18 employees work there during the first shift, but smaller skeleton crews are on the second and third shifts, Dear said. There were three working when the fire occurred, he said.

Acemco employs about 250 people who produce metal products for automotive and nonautomotive customers, Dear said.

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