Westclox up date 1/4/2012

aerial photo of Westclox

Last night around 8:45 the phone started tweeting once again about Westclox. After most firefighters left the area more aide was called into the fire. The hot spots once again rekindled. Police once again blocked off traffic to allow Spring Valley to get in with a snorkel truck. While other area firefighters used an aerial truck and attacking the middle building on foot.

Small town efforts from Ladd and Standard were called in around 10:45 to bring the pumper trucks. I have 2 cousins from the small town of the Standard fire department. So my thoughts and prayers have been going out them.

Later in the night, LaSalle, Oglesby, and Utica were called in. Firefighters were on the scene until 4am.

When I brought the girls to school today we drove through a patch of thick smoke. I can't imagine living close the fire that could still be burning through the weekend.

This is bad news for the business that is losing work this week and would like to get back in. Most of the small shops are looking for other temporary locations.

Here in the LaSalle-Peru area, we do not have a tv station so the only way to get our news is the radio and paper. I would like to say to the reporters out there thank you. Do to twitter and youtube people can get updates much faster and stay out of the way of the firefighters.

Allison Ryan of the News Tribune even took the time to shot a video last night and post it on youtube.

The story below is from the news tribune used here for archival periphrases only.

Hotspots still burning at Westclox (with map)
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
By Jeff Dankert

The Westclox fire in Peru marked Day Three at midnight Tuesday but its strength had dwindled to a few hotspots, setting the stage today for arson investigators to enter and to open the door to businesses restarting.

Tuesday morning, Peru police and fire chiefs took an airplane ride and saw that roughly half of the former clock factory was destroyed.

“It really put it in perspective for me,” Police Chief Doug Bernabei said.

Almost exclusively, the fire happened within a long, narrow warehouse running the east-west length of the Westclox grounds and which contained large supplies of plastic collected for recycling, fire chief Jeff King said.

Tuesday the fire continued burning but in smaller areas, mostly in the center and west end of the warehouse section. By late morning the wind shifted from the west to the south, fanning an acrid haze across U.S. 6 north of Westclox.

On Monday at its peak, 160 firefighters were on site with more than two dozen tanker and engine companies, King said. On Tuesday Peru, fire department manned the fire on its own after two days of assistance from up to 35 other municipal fire departments. Peru stationed watchers Tuesday and when the wind shifted, Peru firefighters returned and remained into the afternoon spraying water on the fire, King said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re still doing it Friday or Saturday,” King said. As the fire diminishes an excavator can be used to move stuff out of the way and finish off the last of the fire, King said.

Firefighters used more than 2 million gallons of water, said King, doubling his estimate from the previous day.

“That’s what you’re going to need with the type of (fuel) that you had in this fire,” King said.

The fire began in a three-story section, the first area attacked by responding firefighters Saturday night, King said. This area remained burning Tuesday because it is the most difficult spot to reach with water, King said.

Mid-morning today, investigators including King, Bernabei, and a state fire marshal are scheduled to enter the building and collect physical evidence in an arson investigation. Bernabei said he is confident that evidence will be recovered, such as a burn pattern and if accelerants were used.

For an interactive map: http://newstrib.com/news/local/westclox/

Steven M. Gallacher, 17, of 338 Creve Coeur St., La Salle and a 15-year-old boy from Peru each faces a charge of aggravated arson. The 15-year-old first appeared in court Tuesday. Gallacher was formally charged Sunday morning and his next hearing is Thursday. The two are accused of dousing a boat stored inside with gasoline and lighting it, according to La Salle County state's attorney Brian Towne.

La Salle firefighter Steve Smith suffered a fractured femur and a severed tendon from a hose coupling while setting up in the first wave of responders at midnight Saturday. He underwent surgery and was at home Tuesday.

The section that burned was loaded with many types of plastic from businesses and industries. It included rolls of plastic film, plastic beads, plastic eyeglass lenses and plastic chairs, Peru building inspector Frank Taylor said. Semitrailers parked at a loading dock contained carpeting, he said.

“Frank and I considered this a worst-case scenario in the city,” King said. “We had a lot of fire load. The potential was for it to go and that’s what happened.”

Over the past year King and Taylor worked with E&R International, a recycling company, to reduce its load of plastics by about half and to ship more plastic out than it was taking in, King said.

Taylor walked through parts of the building Tuesday with two Environmental Protection Agency officials. When asked if the building contained any hazardous or toxic chemicals, Taylor and other officials said Tuesday there were none that they knew of.

However, the burning plastic would emit hazardous and toxic compounds including carcinogens, King said during another press briefing Tuesday at Peru city hall. King told the media to look up any study of burning plastics.

“You’re going to be surprised what comes off of burning plastic,” King said.

An EPA study of burning plastic film used in farm fields showed it emitted benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, hexane and 13 hydrocarbon compounds, such as pyrene. The EPA also reported that burning household trash, such as in burn barrels, emits dioxins, hydrocarbons, formaldehyde and heavy metals.

The Carus building across from Westclox, which is a former Westclox office building, was having its air evaluated Tuesday and was having surfaces cleaned, Taylor said.

To the west, A.R.C Insurance and Financial Services had cleaners from Servpro wiping up soot and smoke damage. A.R.C. President Barney Hydock said he found soot between double panes of a window. He ran his finger across a counter and turned it over to show a light gray powder. His furnace air filter installed Dec. 19 was already fouled. Outside in back, Hydock showed black embers that landed on his roof.

“It will take a week or longer,” said Luke Witynski, customer representative with Servpro of Morris/Ottawa. “Anything that’s in the rooms will have to be wiped down and cleaned, carpets shampooed, duct cleaning.”

Almost half of Westclox, about 150,000 square feet, burned, according to Taylor and Mike Krug, co-owner of the Westclox property and its business development, Peru Trade Center. The Westclox complex covers roughly 400,000-plus square feet, according to the Trade Center website. A previously-reported area of 750,000 square feet included space on several floors.

Krug remained optimistic about getting the business up and running. He was working with King and Peru utility workers Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re going full speed ahead,” he said. “We’re making the preparations to start laying in the power. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to have to have a lot of things happen to get the switch turned on. These guys are not letting any moss grow. They’re rocking and rolling.”

Krug was there Sunday morning when firefighters entered the building from the east to knock down the fire and prevent it from spreading.

“If they hadn’t done what they did ... they saved that whole section of the building and probably the north section,” Krug said. “The only contents that have been destroyed are E&R International.”

The other businesses suffered smoke or water damage. Insurance adjusters have converged on the property but Krug on Tuesday had no cost estimate of damage, he said.

Three power lines to the building have to be restored, said Jim Potthoff, Peru electric supervisor. Lines from the south and west were damaged and intentionally cut to allow safe entry to the fire, he said. The one from the north was shut off to cut power to the building, Potthoff said.

“It’s going to stay disconnected,” Potthoff said. “I don’t know if anyone is going to be back in this week at all.”


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