SPARTANBURG — The firefighters of Union and Spartanburg counties who came together to save a textile plant in the Cross Keys community are being thanked for their efforts by the company that owns the facility.
Milliken & Company issued the following statement about last week’s fire and the efforts of the fire departments that responded to and successfully extinguished the blaze and saved the building.
“Just before noon on Thursday, September 22, the Milliken Gillespie plant in Union County suffered a significant fire. Approximately 50 on-site associates evacuated the facility immediately and were unharmed. Local fire officials were alerted and arrived on the scene within minutes.
“Every fire department in Union County and several in Spartanburg County — 17 in total — responded and worked together to quickly and safely extinguish the fire. Thanks to the organization, professionalism and teamwork of the firefighting teams, the building and equipment inside the plant were relatively undamaged.”
The press release also included a quote from Milliken & Company President and CEO Joe Salley praising the firefighters.
“We are incredibly grateful for the brave men and women who make up our local fire departments,” Salley said. “Our community is a better place because of their hard work and commitment to safety. To every dispatcher, firefighter and chief who helped save our plant on Thursday, thank you.”
The blaze began Thursday morning and the first departments were dispatched to the scene just before noon.
Six fire departments — Southside, Buffalo, Cross Keys, Monarch, Bonham, and the City of Union — were initially dispatched to the scene. The large number of fire departments dispatched was due to the fact that the blaze was a commercial structure fire.
Once there, however, the officer in charge at the scene, Southside Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Lancaster, determined that more manpower was needed and so he requested that the county’s other fire departments be dispatched to the plant along with nearby fire departments in Spartanburg County.
In addition to Union County’s 13 fire departments being dispatched to the scene, the Spartanburg fire departments of Cross Anchor, Hobbysville, Croft, Woodruff, and North Spartanburg also responded to the blaze.
Lancaster, who have to leave shortly after arriving, was succeeded as officer in charge by Cross Keys Fire Chief Stephen Stone.
While the last firefighters would not leave until 6:30 p.m., Stone said the first was brought under control and extinguished by firefighters during the first two hours they were on the scene. He said firefighters remained on the scene another four hours, however, checking for and extinguishing hot spots to make sure the fire did not blaze back up.
Nobody was injured in the fire which Stone said did very little damage to the building. He said the fire was caused by combustible lint in the ducts which had ignited.
Stone attributed the lack of injuries to plant personnel and/or firefighters and lack of damage to a combination of factors beginning with the safety precautions and practices put in place at the plant by Milliken, practices and procedures that included the orderly evacuation of plant personnel from the facility when the fire broke out.
The other factor cited by Stone was the effective and overwhelming response by the fire departments and their cohesive and disciplined efforts to extinguish it as quickly and safely as possible. Stone said this was due to the professionalism and training of the fire departments and their personnel that enabled them to establish a unified command at the scene and undertake a coordinated effort to put out the fire.
The Milliken Gillespie plant manufactures non-woven textiles and employs approximately 120 associates.
For 150 years, Milliken has been innovating with the purpose to explore, discover and create ways to enhance people’s lives. Our community of innovators has developed one of the larger collections of United States patents held by a private U.S. company. With expertise across a breadth of disciplines, including specialty chemical, floor covering and performance materials, we work around the world every day to add true value to people’s lives, improve health and safety, and help make this world more sustainable. For more information, visit www.milliken.com and join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.