Black smoke billowed from the industrial lot as millions of dollars of molded plastic products burned in Cobourg, Ontario. More than 100 firefighters answered the call to put out the April 25 blaze, spectacular as polymer-fueled fires often are.
Plastics pack a lot of energy that can be unleashed by a careless spark. That plastics fires are not more common is testament to the stringent safety measures most companies take. But the best-laid plans of people often go awry, to paraphrase Scottish poet Robbie Burns. And there is little defense against arson, as apparently occurred at Horizon Plastics Co. Ltd.
It's hard to anticipate that two boys some day would play with fire on your back lot and set the whole thing blaze.
Judging from the attention the fire received from the media and local government officials - residents actually were evacuated from their homes - it's incredible that the company was able to resume production within 24 hours.
Thank goodness in this case there is a relatively happy ending. The company is back in production and no one was hurt in the incident.
This recent inferno in Cobourg could not have struck a nicer company. Structural foam molder Horizon is respected among its peers in the plastics industry, within Cobourg's business sector and in the small town's civic community. It is a major employer and supports a host of community activities. One can't help but feel the blaze was particularly unfair to a company that for years has been an exemplary corporate citizen. So, if Horizon is a model business, why would we publicize this dark period in its history?
In the past year or so, Plastics News has reported on more than a dozen fires. We've been covering these incidents, as well as industrial accidents and various unsavory activities, since we began publishing in 1989. Some readers then, but fewer now, accused us of being ambulance chasers and sensationalist because we dared report what the established plastics trade media ignored. We draw attention to the trials and tribulations of companies of all stripes and sizes, going beyond just reporting on the technical nuts and bolts of plastics. But why?
Because our readers need to know how easily mistakes can happen and they must be extra vigilant not to repeat them. Because readers need to know the true status of a company in distress so that they don't make decisions based on rumors.
Fires and other unpleasant events are among the facts of life in our industry, and we don't get any mean pleasure reporting them. We try to be fair to any company finding itself in such straits. And so, at this unfortunate time, it was Horizon's turn in the spotlight.
Michael Lauzon is a Plastics News correspondent based in Toronto.