Insulation catching fire in OC plant’s warehouse


NEWARK, Ohio — The Newark Fire Department has battled four fires at a local Owens Corning plant since August.

All four fires have occurred in a large warehouse, where bales of commercial and residential insulation are stored after they are produced at the 300-acre site.

Chuck Hartlage, a spokesman for Toledo-based Owens Corning Corp., said the fires are caused by hot glass slugs that are woven into the fiber-glass insulation during production. If it’s not detected, the molten glass remains in the bales of insulation as they are wrapped and moved to an on-site warehouse for shipment to customers.

The slug then smolders inside the roll, eventually sparking a flame.

Mr. Hartlage said heat sensors scan the continuous line of insulation as it comes off the production line before it’s rolled and wrapped, but somehow hot slugs are getting through.

“There’s a pretty intense and comprehensive investigation going on internally to get to the root cause,” Mr. Hartlage said.

Newark fire reports show that the four warehouse fires have cost Owens Corning almost $2 million in damaged insulation.

There have been no injuries related to any of the recent fires. Both Newark Fire Chief Jack Stickradt and Mr. Hartlage said there’s no reason to suspect arson.

“These fires, they break out and are typically contained by the sprinkler system,” Chief Stickradt said. “There’s not a huge life-safety issue. ... But these large bales of material are stacked high, and there’s always the possibility they could fall.”

The Newark plant has about 600 employees. It opened in 1938, the year Owens Corning was founded.