Nearly 1,000 caskets stored inside the West Point Casket Company could have went up in flames Friday after a fire broke out at the building but are all in tact along with the building, which received mostly fire damage to the roof.
The fire at the casket company, owned by Matthews Casket Company of Pittsburg, Penn., started around 5:04 Friday afternoon in the midst of the work crews’ installation of monitors in the building.
West Point Battalion Chief Ronnie Robinson said the work crew was inside cutting squares from the floor using a saw that was mounted onto a work truck. The truck, he said, had been pulled into the building and as the truck continued to run exhaust began to billow throughout the building. Robinson said the workers decided to run the exhaust pipe through a pipe in the roof to free the exhaust from the building but was unaware that the pipe in the roof was a plastic material.
The plastic pipe soon got hot, melted and caused a fire in the ceiling. The West Point Fire Department was called to the scene and climbed atop the roof to extinguish the fire.
“It took us a little while to figure it all out because when we drove up you could see a light in the very back corner, which they were working with, and that looked like the fire because all the smoke in the building – you could see a bright glow back there, so we thought that’s what it was,” Robinson said. “We got in there, and they were trying to get the truck out of the building but because it was so full of smoke and everything, they were doing all they could do to get the truck out. We realized that light wasn’t the fire then we looked up over our heads and just saw hot, melting plastic falling down.”
Fire officials initially thought sparks from the saw may have caused the fire but later realized it wasn’t the saw.
The company stores caskets and had about 1,000 stored in the west end of the building, which were not damaged. Robinson said the fire occurred on the east end, and the damage the building did suffer was not extensive.
The Fire Department stayed on scene about 45 minutes, putting out the fire and running smoke fans to clean the smoke from the building.
“We extinguished the fire rather quickly,” Robinson said. “The guys just didn’t realize it was plastic pipe and were just trying to get the exhaust out of the building.”
There were no injuries in the fire.