Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
Jul. 14—A fire at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga auto assembly plant Tuesday left seven employees suffering minor smoke inhalation and production was suspended for the day, according to officials.
The affected employees were treated at the scene following an evacuation of the plant after the fire broke out in the factory’s body shop at about 8:46 a.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department reported.
Crews found a conveyor belt in a confined space had caught fire, the department said. The fire was quickly extinguished with firefighters having flames under control by 9:16 a.m., according to the department.
CFD said building sprinklers on the line in the body shop that was affected went off and kept the fire from spreading. CFD’s radios were fully operational inside the plant and firefighters could effectively communicate during the entire response, the department said.
“These types of fires are extremely dangerous,” said Fire Chief Phil Hyman. “Life hazard is our primary concern with so many employees working there. We rely heavily on Volkswagen’s team for accountability and they do a great job with that. Time is everything for us in these situations so having an on-site fire department is a huge help.”
Volkswagen’s Fire Department needed extra manpower and hose for a reliable water supply and CFD was there to assist, according to officials.
Firefighters encountered heavy smoke, but the natural ventilation from the bay doors at the body shop allowed them to have some visibility. With flames under control, firefighters then monitored hot spots, according to CFD.
Ventilation fans were used to clear smoke out of the large building and booms helped prevent water runoff into other areas of the structure. Cleanup took some time following the joint firefighting operation, CFD reported.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.
“We don’t know what caused it,” said Amanda Plecas, head of communication at the VW plant.
She said the fire department responded quickly.
“It was very fast response from the local fire department,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re really grateful.”
She said that while production was suspended for the remainder of Tuesday, plans were for employees to return Wednesday.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.
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