published Friday, October 29th, 2010

Fire at paper plant injures worker

CALHOUN, Tenn. — An AbitibiBowater employee was injured Thursday evening after a fire erupted in a portion of the paper plant that holds coal.

The name of the employee and the nature of the injuries were not released by the company.

AbitibiBowater spokeswoman Debbie Johnston confirmed the company had a fire in a coal bunker at the paper factory and that an employee was injured.

Johnston said the injured employee was an emergency responder for the facility. She added the plant keeps its own emergency team on hand to have a quick response to an injury or fire.

According to Johnston, the paper facility uses coal to heat an industrial power boiler.

The fire at the plant was contained but not out, according to Johnston. She added it would likely take days to completely put out the fire.

“The fire is under control,” Johnston said. “We’ll be working to extinguish it over the next few days.”

Rural fire departments from neighboring communities were dispatched to assist battling the fire.

McMinn County 911 dispatched additional fire units about 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

Well into the night, fire crews remained at the site.

Johnston said the coal is very combustible and that it is common for fires to break out in industrial settings where the fuel is stored, but she was unaware if such fires have occurred at the Calhoun facility before.

She added that as of Thursday evening it was unclear how the fire started, but company officials would be looking into what happened.

Contact Jeremy Belk at JBelk@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6345.

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