A fire that heavily damaged the Daehan Solutions plant on March 17 has been ruled accidental and unintentional, said West Point Fire Chief Milton Smith. Total damage is estimated at $18 million.
The cause was released Monday night after reports from the city, Harris County and the state fire marshal were compiled.
Smith said the fire started when an employee left hot molds too close to combustible materials.
The Kia supplier makes sound barrier material that goes in automobiles, such as headliners and carpet. The barrier material is made up of rubber, material that looks like shredded cloth and felt and is pressed with heat.
When the sound barrier material is composed, it goes through a hot mold to be compressed and those hot molds are hung on a cart and taken outside for disposal, Smith said.
“The man who was supposed to take it outside didn’t make it,” Smith said. “He went on a break and left it too close to combustible materials.”
Ron Wilson, Daehan’s human resources manager and company spokesman, said he hadn’t had a chance yet to read the final report on the fire. He had no comment Monday night. Smith said the entire original portion of the building, all but about one-fourth that was protected by a firewall, is going to have to be rebuilt. The entire building is 140,000 square feet.
The costs of the city’s fighting the fire are also yet to be completed.
The report details what happened in the early morning hours of March 17, as firefighters from West Point and the surrounding area fought the fire. A sprinkler system was activated during the incident, but Smith said since the roof collapsed so soon after the start of the fire, the sprinklers were not effective.
About 30 employees were in the plant, in the Northwest Harris Business Park, when the fire started about 5 a.m. All tried to use fire extinguishers and also were unsuccessful. Firefighters were on the scene within five minutes and immediately called for backup from Lanett, Ala., East Alabama and Harris County fire departments. More than 50 firefighters were on the scene, including all West Point firefighters and off-duty personnel.
“I cannot stress it enough,” Smith said. “We had no injuries and no fatalities.”
The fire halted production at Kia Motors’ West Point plant for at least two days. Daehan was back up and running with limited production four days after the fire and calling all 300 employees to come back to work a week after the fire.