A huge blaze, thought to have been sparked by a lightning strike, is reported to have destroyed tons of extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation panels at the German plant of Austrotherm in Wittenberg.
Thick drifting black smoke filled the air above the plant as the fire brigade battled to control the blaze which spread through stacks of insulation being airedout, not far from the site's buildings.
Fire fighters attending the incident on July 27 at the facility in Brandenburg state in northeastern Germany took three hours to tackle the blaze, preventing flames from spreading to the production hall, 30 meters away, and other buildings. These had been evacuated immediately and no injuries were reported.
The blaze, said to have caused several million dollars worth of damage, was centered on an outside storage area of around 15,000 square meters with XPS panels in 1.5-meter stacks. The insulation boards were in the open undergoing an "outgassing" process, according to German media reports.
The company was forced to halt production and the formal investigation into the cause of the fire was continuing last week. Austrotherm told customers that it managed to fill some orders at the end of the week and would resume normal supply as soon as possible.
Austrotherm, based in Waldegg, Austria, launched the German plant, its first in the country, in 2014. The group's president, Gerald Prinzhorn was quoted as saying that his company could expect to face a loss of around 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in damage resulting from the fire which destroyed much of the insulation material.
The 40 million euro ($44.8 million) Wittenberg plant, which began operating in mid 2013, produces Austrotherm's characteristic pink XPS panels used in basement and flat roof insulation. The 114,000-square-meter facility is located mid way between Berlin and Hamburg, allowing Austrotherm to supply growing German and north European markets.
Austrotherm, which also manufactures EPS material, has other XPS plants in Serbia, Romania and Austria.