It has been characterized as a total loss.
But those most directly affected by the fire that destroyed Suburban Molding Co. Inc.'s 20,000-square-foot injection molding plant in Union City, Pa., have a slightly different take.
``It was a joyful event when I was notified of the fire and learned that everyone was out and accounted for,'' said President David McGuire in an April 27 telephone interview.
The fire started around 2 p.m. April 22 after the shift supervisor and maintenance manager heard a loud, mechanical whine coming from the compressor room.
When they opened the door, smoke and flame erupted.
``Opening that door supplied oxygen, and it just burst into flames,'' McGuire said.
The dozen employees filed out of the building per the company's fire emergency plans, and everyone was quickly accounted for, he said.
That was priority No. 1. Priority No. 2 remains a problem.
``Every effort is being made to protect or minimize the impact on our customers' supply chain,'' McGuire said.
There has been an outpouring of support from the local business community, particularly from Erie, Pa.-area injection molders, many of which have put competitiveness aside to offer machine time for Suburban to get its parts out and part-time jobs for the displaced employees.
Suburban uses predominantly thermoset resins to injection mold parts for a variety of end markets, including automotive, electrical and transportation.
The Erie County Redevelopment Authority is working with Suburban to mitigate the damage.
The agency has offered free space in a former injection molding plant until Suburban officials rebuild or move to a new plant, said Rick Novotny, the organization's executive director. However, none of Suburban's 25 presses survived the blaze, McGuire said.
Suburban officials are moved by the outpouring of support.
``The molding community has been just magnificent, especially within the region,'' McGuire said. ``It has been everything one would hope for.''
Suburban is refurbishing many of the molds it salvaged from the ruined plant. The company has two toolmaking units, Erie-based Suburban Tool & Die Co. Inc. and Meadville, Pa.-based Suburban Precision Mold Co. Inc., both of which are fully operational.
McGuire said discussion of long-term plans for Suburban Molding is premature. For now, the company will simply try to hang on to as many customers as possible, he said.
``We're making every effort to keep our customer base,'' he said.