Fire Slows Down Arkansas Steel Production - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Newport, AR--Tiffany Blankenship Reports

Fire Slows Down Arkansas Steel Production

May 16, 2005--Posted at 6:30 p.m. CDT

NEWPORT-- A fire on Sunday is slowing production for a key player in Newport business.

It was a blaze that started at around 2 a.m., and a number of fire departments joined forces to cool it down.

"To put the fire out, it didn't take a lot of time. We were on the scene for about 12 hours, but a lot of the time was spent cooling the oil off," Assistant Chief Greg Gordon of the Diaz Fire Department says.

And today Arkansas Steel officials still aren't sure how the fire, with it's flames reaching 50 feet into the air, was started.

Arkansas Steel Senior Manager of Human Resources Dan Haygood says, "We're not totally sure about the exact cause but we did have an electrical problem within our furnace transformer."

What they do know is that the flames erupted after a transformer exploded which contained oil that fed the fire.

"We couldn't actually get into the fire. They had to tear part of the building off so we could get to it," Haygood says.

Heat and structural condition slowed the firefighters, and it looks like it might slow down production as well.

"Production is going to cease in the melt shop for a short period of time and that will be assessed probably by mid week," Haygood says.

The important thing to remember, Haygood says, is that no one was hurt and business will continue as usual.

"We're going to replace the transformer but we don't know at this point what we'll do, how we'll do it and our progress we'll make toward bringing this to an end," Haygood says.

The plant has 220 workers and is the leading producer of railroad tie plates.

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