A stray lightning bolt may have ignited a fire April 20 that devastated packaging companies La Pac Manufacturing Inc. and Louisiana Bag Co. Inc. No injuries were reported.
The two companies shared the same facility in Crowley, La., and the bolt may have struck burlap bags stored in its warehouse, said La Pac operations manager Edward Leger.
``That location was completely destroyed,'' he said. ``Our manufacturing capacity is severely damaged.''
Leger said the company plans to shift its operations ``immediately'' to a vacant facility about a quarter-mile away. He said the empty plant, formerly Crowley Manufacturing Co., is slightly smaller than the destroyed complex, though he could not give the square footage of the two plants. The original complex was on about 31/2 acres of land and employed about 160.
There were four extrusion lines at La Pac, Leger said. Louisiana Bag does not do any manufacturing, but instead buys and sells products.
He said competitors have offered machinery to help capacity get back to normal.
``We're down but not out,'' he said. ``We have no plans to shut down any of it.''
He said customers have been patient.
``They understand,'' Leger said, ``but they do have their needs.'' The short-term plan is to transfer orders to competitors and as operations get going again, ``we'll wean that off.''
Louisiana Bag, founded in 1953, supplies packaging products to a number of industries. Founded in 1992, La Pac manufactures polypropylene fabric and bags used primarily in agriculture.
The Department of Defense recently added to its contract with La Pac by ordering 1 million additional sandbags, bringing its total contract with the government to 8.2 million bags, 2 million of which were sent to Iraq, he said.
La Pac had sales last year of less than $10 million, Leger said, while Louisiana Bag was between $10 million and $20 million.
Both companies are owned by David and Peter John, who could not be reached for comment.
``We just want people to know we're not going anywhere,'' Leger said. ``Check up on us three or four months from now.''