Hastings firefighters on Thursday saved the Eaton Corp. building in north Hastings for the second time in just more than two months after a fire was caused by disassembly of equipment inside the shuttered factory.
In a news release, the city of Hastings reported that Hastings Fire & Rescue responded to a fire at the Eaton facility, 300 E. 39th St., at 10 a.m.
According to the city, six workers were in the building at the time, and a plasma cutter was being used to cut and remove metal as part of the disassembly of some machinery inside the plant.
The cutting process ignited built-up oil residues in the building, and the fire began to spread throughout the area. But the automatic sprinkler system activated and kept the fire limited until firefighters arrived on the scene and extinguished it completely.
Prior to the sprinkler system activation, a worker manually pulled a fire alarm so all the other workers would know to evacuate.
Eaton Corp. opened the Hastings plant in Industrial Park North in 1998 as part of its Torque Control Product Division, occupying a former Coleman Powermate factory.
The company announced in May 2021 it would close the plant by the following year as part of a consolidation of its gear manufacturing operations, allowing for increased operational efficiencies and increased use of a factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Production of differential gears was to be transferred to another plant in North America, a company spokeswoman said at the time.
When the closure was announced, the Hastings plant had about 83 employees.
Although the Hastings plant now has closed, disassembly operations continue inside the building, which Hastings Fire & Rescue estimates is worth $9 million.
An incident similar to Thursday’s occurred Jan. 6. The sprinkler system, along with quick action by employees and firefighters, has saved the building each time, the city said.
In the wake of Thursday’s fire, the Hastings fire marshal issued two citation for failure to follow a “hot work” permit, directly resulting in a structure fire.
For more information on hot work permit requirements, to include welding, cutting and torch-applied roofing, call Hastings Fire & Rescue, 402-461-2350.
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