4-alarm Fire Melts Tires At Michelin Site

39 Workers Evacuate Building Near Bwi

None Seriously Hurt

70 Firefighters Dispatched

Burning Rubber Spews Thick Smoke, Making It Hard To Fight Blaze

April 29, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A four-alarm fire melted scores of tires at a Michelin North America tire distribution center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday and routed 39 employees and contractors from the building.

It was the first blaze at a Michelin distribution center in recent years, company officials said.

The fire at the 460,000-square-foot complex in the 7000 block of Candlewood Drive in Hanover started just before noon and was under control shortly after 3: 30 p.m., Anne Arundel fire officials said.

Those in the building were evacuated, and paramedics checked two employees for smoke inhalation, but no one was hospitalized, the officials said. About 70 firefighters from Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties were dispatched.

The fire, which was confined to a 30-by-40-foot area in the rear of the building, was difficult to fight because of the thick, black smoke that filled the building and because of the tires, which were stacked 20 to 30 feet high and about 600 feet across, fire officials said.

Firefighters could not see in the building because of the dark smoke and had to open all doors and roof hatches to ventilate the building before entering, said county fire Capt. Allen Graves. "The tires burn with high heat, and there's a lot of acrid, dark smoke, which makes it a difficult fire to deal with," he said.

Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells said firefighters plowed through the tires with forklifts or moved the tires by hand to get to the back of the building. The building's internal sprinkler system helped keep the fire at bay until firefighters reached the site at 4: 30 p.m., he said.

Cause unknown

Fire officials said they did not know what caused the blaze.

The building, which Michelin has occupied for 23 years, is one of the company's 12 distribution centers nationwide. It usually stores 500,000 tires to be sent to dealers in Maryland, Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New York state.

"Service will not be interrupted at all," said Brian Duplessis, a spokesman for Michelin, which is based in Greenville, S.C. "Customers' needs will be met by other facilities."

Other facilities

The company will be drawing on distribution centers in Pennsylvania and South Carolina to provide tires in the meantime, Duplessis said.

Employees didn't seem too concerned about the blaze yesterday. Many said they had calmly left the building when they saw smoke or heard the fire alarm.

`We deserve a break'

Lying on the grass smoking and chatting with co-workers, forklift operator Mike Smith said he wasn't upset at having to leave the building. "We work hard every day, all day," Smith said between swigs of root beer. "We deserve a break."

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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