SCOTTSBURG — One man is hospitalized after a massive fire Thursday that destroyed one building at a Scottsburg industrial plant and heavily damaged another.
Scottsburg Fire Chief James Richey said his department got the call just before 10 a.m. of an explosion at the South Gardner Street location of Thomas Plastic Machinery Inc.
Arriving crews found “heavy smoke, extensive fire,” he said. “The whole building was basically involved at that point.”
One man was flown to University Hospital with third-degree burns on his arms, and first- and second-degree burns around his face. Richey said around 1 p.m. that his most recent information was that the man had been in stable condition.
The responders made sure everyone had been evacuated from the building, which was a fabrication area where workers had been. Since there were no people inside, the firefighters implemented a defensive attack from the outside of the building.
For close to two hours the crews fought the blaze, which the chief said had been extensive because of both the metal makeup of the building and the containers of chemicals, such as propane, that were inside.
“It wasn’t worth risking the life of firefighters when there’s no one inside,” he said, adding that “with it being a metal roof, metal walls, metal doors, it made it that much more difficult to fight it from the outside because it really hadn’t breached through yet.
“But it was a very short time after that it broke through.”
Richey said that businesses immediately surrounding the plant were evacuated for safety including Willy D’s Diner and an auto shop. The city square several blocks away, which includes the Scott County County courthouse, was also evacuated because of the smoke blowing that direction and breaching the buildings. Business had returned to normal at the courthouse by early afternoon.
No residences had to be evacuated, but fire crews kept close watch to ensure there was no risk to them.
Thomas Plastic Machinery Inc. is a family-owned business that started in 1992, according to the company’s website. Specializing in machine moving and rigging and custom design and builds of new machinery, it has grown to have more than 150 clients locally, nationally and internationally.
Richey was not sure how many total employees there are, but added that “Thomas Plastics is a pretty big employer and they have several locations all around the community,” he said.
An owner was on site Thursday assessing the damage but declined to comment until another time.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. The state fire marshal and an investigator with the Scottsburg Fire Department were on scene, with the investigation expected to begin in the evening after all hot spots had been extinguished.