ROCKINGHAM — Firefighters didn’t have much fighting to do when they responded to an alarm at Direct Pack East late Wednesday night.
Several bags of ground-up plastic caught fire at the manufacturing plant in the former Trane building on Airport Road, according to Bill Bayless, deputy chief of the East Rockingham Fire Department.
Crews from ERFD and Cordova responded after the call went out around 11:30, but Bayless said “the sprinkler system had it extinguished by the time we got there.” The only damage, he added, was to the bags — “It didn’t even smoke up the building.”
A front-end loader was brought in to take out the molten material where firefighters sprayed it down to make sure the hot spots were out.
“We don’t know why they smoldered like that,” said Laura Murphy, vice president of marketing for Direct Pack. She said the company would be conducting an internal investigation into the cause.
The California-based company announced in August 2016 that it was expanding its operations, bringing more than 90 jobs to its Richmond County facility over the next five years, with plans to invest more than $12 million.
A subsidiary of PMC Global, Direct Pack specializes in thermoformed packaging for agriculture, food service, supermarket chains and food processors. Its products “span from functional berry containers to innovative salad bowls, all kinds of bakery and deli containers and image-building entrée take-out solutions,” according to Direct Pack’s website.
The Richmond County plant opened last December and makes products for IHOP and Chick-fil-A, Murphy said.
This was the second manufacturing fire within a week.
Wade Manufacturing’s River Road facility was ablaze last Friday, with more than 20 firefighters responding from the Rockingham, Hamlet and Cordova fire departments.
Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler said the fire appears to have started in an electrical panel box.
Damage is estimated at $700,000 to the building and $1.5 million to the equipment he said.