BERWICK, PA. — Bryan Statskey was barely home from work for 15 minutes when he got the call from the Consolidated Container Co. plant he manages.
The blow molding, bottle making site on the outskirts of town in an industrial area of Berwick was on fire.
“At first, I thought: ‘Was this for real?'” he remembered about receiving the call that early evening, Sept. 18. “I heard the roll call in the background. This is serious. Very serious.”
His normal 20-minute drive to the plant took 45 as he made calls around the company to let folks know what was going on. “Coming up to the plant, I see smoke rising and a lot of people were already here, a lot of early responders,” he said.
Firefighters from three counties and 19 companies battled that evening to knock down the flames and save the plant in the process. But all of the smoke and the water and the fire itself left devastation in its wake.
Quick response by those firefighters helped contain the fire to about a third of the 197,000-square-foot facility.
“It was disbelief. It was absolute chaos,” Statskey said. “It was incredible. Something that is etched in my mind I'll never forget.”
Sept. 18, 2013, is etched in CCC company history as well. It was the day that the Berwick plant burned thanks to a massive electrical shortage called an arc flash that sent sparks into the building's old, wooden rafters. It was the day the company decided to rebuild.
There's a door mat when you walk up to CCC's offices in Berwick. It said, “Safety Always Wins,” when the company gathered employees and community members May 22 to celebrate reopening of the site.
Each week, this and other similar door mats around the site are switched out and cleaned. But they always carry a safety theme, Statskey said.
“It pays off to be prepared and even when you think you have all your bases covered, there are things that are going to crop up,” the plant manager said. “Don't think that it can't happen to you.
“That,” he said about an attention to safety, “paid off. No injuries. That in and of itself is incredible for a fire like this.”
Each and every worker that night got out. The roll call quickly proved that. They were, indeed, safe. But they also thought they were watching their future go up in smoke.
Clive Brown, regional director for CCC, was in Rochester, N.Y., when he got the call. And by the time he arrived about five hours later in Berwick, the company already knew it was going to rebuild.
“You see a big hulking building and have a smell of the fire,” he said. Several employees were still in the parking lot when he arrived between midnight and 1 a.m. “trying to wrap their heads around what happened,”