Wind, falling temperatures complicate firefighting efforts at sprawling complex as nearby residences are evacuated
An army of firefighters from the Burlington area and beyond is fighting a raging eight-alarm fire – as well as brisk winter winds and falling temperatures – Wednesday evening at Echo Lake Foods on Honey Lake Road.
There was no immediate word of injury to plant workers, however, at least two people showed up at the emergency room of Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington for treatment of smoke inhalation, according to Aurora spokesman Adam Beeson.
“We had a couple of walk-ins, but nothing beyond our ability to handle the situation,” he said.
Mayor Bob Miller said shortly after 9 p.m. that the fire was still active and firefighters were concerned about potential threat to poisonous ammonia tanks at the site. He said fire crews were able to effectively cool liquid oxygen tanks at the plant. The mayor anticipated fire crews would be on the site throughout the night as the fire continued to rage inside the metal buildings, which limited access for firefighters.
Miller also said nearby residences were evacuated as a precaution. During a 10 p.m. press briefing, Miller said 10 homes and one apartment complex had been evacuated. He didn’t anticipate any further evacuations and noted that hazardous materials crews were on the scene and advising officials.
Heavy smoke is being driven by the wind into the residential area east and south of the plant. One witness said thick smoke was blowing east on Grove Street and could be detected inside the Walgreens store at the foot of Grove Street on Milwaukee Avenue about a half mile away.
Firefighters were dispatched to the scene for a report of a fire sometime around 6 p.m. Much of the main processing area of the sprawling complex appeared to engulfed by flames by 7 p.m. At least two large explosions were heard at the scene shortly after 7:30 p.m.
Firefighters used a variety of aerial apparatus to spray water on the roof of the complex as flames broke through and grew higher as they were whipped by winds from the west. According Miller, five mutual aid box alarms were issued to bring in additional firefighting equipment and manpower from departments in five different counties – Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Waukesha and Milwaukee.
As the fire continued late into the night, emergency officials closed off a portion of nearby Milwaukee Avenue – Burlington’s busiest street – to accommodate tanker trucks pumping water from Echo Lake. A resident who lives in the vicinity of the fire said water pressure at his home was extremely low as the city’s municipal water system was being tapped to fight the blaze.
Founded in 1941, Echo Lake Foods makes a variety of breakfast foods with its main products coming from pasteurized, precooked eggs. A link to the company’s web site is here http://www.echoforeggs.com/history.html. Miller said the company employs about 300 people.
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