10 Days Later, Firefighters Head Home

Firefighters who battled the Quad/Graphics fire at its Lomira, WI, printing plant that took one life and burned 30,000 pallets of paper ended operations Monday after 10 days on the scene.

Extinguishing the blaze, which began July 12, required 15 million gallons of water, 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel and more than a mile of fire hose, according to the Brownsville, WI, fire department. More than 300 volunteer firefighters from 55 departments contributed more than 10,000 man-hours to containing and putting out the fire.

The building that burned contained magazine and catalog pages awaiting binding, including pages from L.L. Bean, Lillian Vernon, Boise Office Solutions and Cabela's. Quad/Graphics has called upon its other printing plants nationwide to work overtime to replace the burned materials. The company did not return calls about the fire or whether it was back on schedule with affected customers.

The production portion of the Lomira plant was unaffected by the fire and continues operations.

Aided by rains over the weekend, the firefighters doused all hot spots by the beginning of this week. The Brownsville Fire Company said it would leave some hose at the plant that will be available to employees of Quad/Graphics who are firefighters to use in case cleanup crews uncover undetected hot spots.

Quad/Graphics said in a statement that cleanup crews so far have removed a 680-foot-by-120-foot section of the debris pile, which once measured 30 feet in height. The remaining section is 120 feet long, 120 feet wide and 20 feet in height.

The section awaiting removal is the portion where firefighters think the blaze began.

Firefighters think the blaze started after a piece of automated racking equipment collapsed, dragging down part of the building and starting the fire that eventually consumed the entire structure. No official cause of the fire has been released pending the completion of the investigation.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration also is investigating the incident for possible work safety and health violations.

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