Schuylkill County Emergency Management Coordinator Arthur D. Kaplan said HAZMAT was called in because the section of the building contained cylinders of various gases and acetylene torches for welding. Emergency crews removed the flammable materials before any explosions occurred.
“This is a nightmare,” said employee Donald Doyne as he watched smoke billow from the building with several of the company’s other 35 employees, including Brian Readinger. “Brian was the last one to leave, he left here around 5:30, 6 o’clock, and there was no evidence of anything.”
“We were only gone for a couple of hours, we were just talking about how quickly this thing happened,” Readinger said.
“I’m not going to get too upset,” said company owner James Somers, Pottsville. “As long as everything’s OK and nobody got hurt.”
Somers and some of his employees agreed the facility can still be used, although the area used to manufacture jackets for hot water boilers would need rebuilding.
“We’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us, there’s no doubt about that,” Doyne said.
Kaplan wasn’t sure if the building would have to be torn down, but the collapsed roof left little room for speculation.
“It doesn’t look too good right now,” Kaplan said late Thursday. “The fire is under control, but there are still hot spots and there’s still a lot of smoke and a lot of other things that have to get taken care of before any determination can be made.”
Somers said he didn’t know what could have caused the fire, and officials were also unsure.
“We haven’t a clue at this point,” Kaplan said. “It’s still ongoing, and there will be an investigation.”
Kaplan said one of the fire departments were doing air monitoring to make sure there were no additional concerns.
Twenty-seven units from Schuylkill and Berks Counties assisted in putting out the fire.