Fire and other officials are combing the wreckage of Vinyl Works Canada's factory to determine a cause for a Feb. 6 fire that destroyed the Port Colborne, Ontario, facility.
"The fire marshall is there now," said Mike Bendia, Deputy Fire Chief for Port Colborne in a Feb. 8 midday interview with Plastics News. "We don't know the cause right now."
At a Feb. 7 news conference with local officials, Bendia said the fire was not suspicious in nature.
Fire broke out the morning of Feb. 6 as workers began the workday at the manufacturer of vinyl swimming pool ladders, fencing and related goods. Seven workers escaped the blaze with no injury.
Local reports pegged the damage at more than $1 million, a figure Bendia could not confirm.
Some 55 firefighters from several stations tackled the blaze but were unable to save the building. Freezing weather and lack of a nearby water hydrant frustrated their efforts.
Ontario Ministry of Environment officials advised local residents to close windows and doors but air quality testing after the fire indicated smoke and fumes had dissipated.
A local plastics processor told Plastics News he is familiar with the owners and wishes them well.
"I hate to see such a tragedy strike any business, especially one with good guys like Fred and Trent Pettit at the helm," said Bob Confer, president of Confer Plastics Inc. in a Feb. 7 phone interview. Confer Plastics in North Tonawanda, N.Y., is about an hour's drive from Port Colborne, across the U.S.-Canada border.
"While Vinyl Works and Confer Plastics might be competitors in the swimming pool industry, we're friendly competitors. My heart goes out to them during these difficult times and I hope for a speedy recovery of their operations."
Confer Plastics makes proprietary pool and spa accessories and does custom blow molding.
The Pettit family, owners of Vinyl Works, could not be reached for comment. As of Feb. 7 they had not contacted Confer Plastics to seek assistance.
For the Pettits and Vinyl Works, the blaze was the second disaster they have survived. In late 2001, a massive buildup of snow totalled Vinyl Works' roof when the operation was based in nearby Fort Erie, Ontario. Exceptional snowfall that winter temporarily shut down Buffalo, N.Y., the biggest city in the U.S.-Canada Niagara corridor. That incident occurred Dec. 28 when the plant was closed for the holidays and then too no one was injured.