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Fire hits NFM/Welding Engineers, but machinery production area spared

By: Bill Bregar

April 11, 2013

MASSILLON, OHIO -- Firefighters battled a major nighttime blaze at NFM/Welding Engineers Inc. in Massillon early in the morning of April 11 that severely damaged a building where employees made crates for shipping the company's extruders.

Nobody was injured, fire officials said. Two walls and a roof collapsed. There was no one inside the building.

Left untouched was the main manufacturing building, where NFM makes machinery, so day-to-day operations continued at the company.

NFM President Paul Roberson said the fire apparently was related to a thunderstorm that pounded the area. Contacted later that same day, Massillon Fire Chief Tom Burgasser said the cause of the fire had not yet been determined.

"There was a great deal of lightning, but in terms of a cause, it's all under investigation," the chief said.

Roberson called it "a pretty bad fire."

"One of our buildings was a complete loss. It's where we manufactured our packages — crates, skids and that kind of stuff. It is our woodworking area," Roberson said. "It is important to us, but it was not vital to our operations. So we'll be able to continue to supply all our customers and should be basically uninterrupted."

Burgasser said the fire was going strong when firefighters were called to NFM at 1:40 a.m. on April 11. They got the fire under control at 5:17 a.m. and worked to put out hot spots. It was a major blaze fed by wood used to make the crates and skids, he said.

NFM employees, who were working in another part of the giant complex of buildings, saw the flames and tried to put out the fire with fire extinguishers. They immediately called 911.

The fire spread quickly. The intense heat caused the wall to collapse on two sides, sending the roof crashing down and shooting a giant fireball in the sky, Burgasser said.

"The building itself is a brick building with steel beams interlaid. And obviously when you get these steel beams heated up like that, they're going to elongate and they're going to collapse," the chief said.

Massillon firefighters, aided by the Jackson Township Fire Department, used ladder trucks to fight the blaze. Burgasser said they pumped 230,000 gallons of water onto the structure. Firefighters did not enter the building.

"Our main concern was keeping that exposure, keeping that fire away from the main plant," he said.