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One worker killed, two injured, in fire at AERT extrusion plant

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July 18, 2013

One employee was killed and two others injured in a July 17 fire at an Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. plant in Springdale, Ark.

Matthew Chwirka died early July 18 at Mercy Burn Center in Springfield, Missouri, from injuries sustained in the fire, according to a statement from AERT.

One employee, Howard Marshall, is in stable condition in at an area burn unit; and one was treated and released July 17, according to an AERT statement July 18.

The extrusion plant is currently closed and an investigation is ongoing.

“Our greatest sympathy is with the family and friends of the employee who lost his life, and with those who sustained injuries,” said Tim Morrison, AERT’s president, in the statement. “We are providing support to families and associates to help them through this very difficult time.”

AERT officials were not immediately available for comment on July 18.

The fire broke out at the facility around 2:40 p.m. and was contained a few hours later, according to local news reports.

The plant appears to have sustained minimal damage, according to AERT.

In a July 17 statement, AERT said the cause of the fire was unknown.

According to a report from KFSM-TV in Fort Smith, Ark., fire officials believe a flash fire started in a mixer during production.

AERT operates several facilities in Springdale, also home of the company’s headquarters. The company makes composite building materials, like wood-plastic decking, from recycling polyethylene plastics. Its product lines include ChoiceDek and MoistureShield.

The company had sales of $74.6 million in 2012.

The blaze is far from AERT’s first. According to local news reports, a dust explosion blew the roof off a silo at another AERT Springdale plant last year. A Springdale plant also saw a minor fire in 2008.

An AERT facility in Junction, Texas, was destroyed by fire in early 2003. From 1993-1997, five fires were reported at AERT facilities. Two of those fires, in 1996, were arson.