A Sept. 8 fire that began in the shipping area has shut down a Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems plant in Farmington, Mo., idling 700 workers.
Rubbermaid Inc. will continue to pay workers and provide benefits for 90 days, as officials develop plans to resume production. Rubbermaid wants to reopen the plant, according to spokeswoman Lorrie Paul Crum.
Nobody was injured in the blaze. Plastic caught on fire, and firefighters initially could not contain the fire. Emergency crews evacuated some nearby residents, Crum said.
Crum said the plant's four rotational molding machines were damaged, but most molds were spared. The fire apparently started near some shipping cartons, where plant employees saw smoke at about 3:30 a.m. They left the building. Firefighters from more than 20 local departments responded, Crum said.
Rubbermaid of Wooster, Ohio, acquired the Farmington plant in 1993, when it bought Iron Mountain Forge Corp. The plant makes commercial playground equipment for institutional customers such as schools, parks, restaurants and day-care facilities. Its products contain plastic, metal and wood components.
Although it is called Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems, the Farmington plant is grouped under Rubbermaid's Commercial Products unit in Winchester, Va.
Fire department officials could not be reached for comment.
The day after the fire, Crum said investigators had not determined what caused the blaze. She said the plant, which was insured, has a no-smoking policy. About one-third of the plant was damaged. A dollar amount of total damages was not available.
The fire did not hurt offices, and the firm expected office operations to begin within the week.
In 1996, Rubbermaid closed a commercial playground operation in Guelph, Ontario, and moved it to the Farmington plant.
``We are just very, very thankful that no one was hurt in this disaster,'' said Larry Blackburn, president and general manager of Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems. ``Now, we have much work to do, to assess the damage and assemble the resources to determine plans for the future.''
Near the Farmington plant, Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems also runs a plant assembling indoor playground equipment in Ironton, Mo.