Press-Republican

November 11, 2013

Firefighters credited with saving Schluter manufacturing center

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Investigation into the cause of the fire that destroyed a warehouse at the Schluter Systems Complex in Plattsburgh on Saturday evening was underway Sunday.

Report of the blaze at 194 Pleasant Ridge Road was first received at about 5:20 p.m. when a company employee at the complex called 911, according to Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day, who was first to respond to the scene.

By the time he arrived, the warehouse, which Day estimated to be about 12,000 square feet in size, was well involved in flames.

“You could see orange glow inside the windows,” he said.

In addition, Day noted, the steel siding on a portion of the building had already failed, succumbing to the immense heat.

“It was a really hot, really smoky fire,” he said.

Though crews from South Plattsburgh Fire Department were the first to be dispatched to the scene, 18 other agencies, including Moores, Champlain, Altona, Chazy, West Chazy, Beekmantown, Dannemora, Cumberland Head, District 3, Plattsburgh City, Morrisonville, Saranac, Peru, AuSable Forks, Keeseville, Willsboro and Jay fire departments, as well as CVPH EMS, were also involved in the effort.

Assistance was also provided by Clinton County deputy fire coordinators.

It was “probably about four hours from the time we arrived until we were pretty comfortable that we had it contained to that building,” Day said.

The warehouse, owned by SSF Production LLC, was used to store some of the product manufactured at the Schluter Complex, according to Day.

“It’s a foam material,” he said.

Schluter Systems manufactures ceramic and stone tile installation systems, according to its website.

The storage structure was joined to the manufacturing facility by a connector roof, from which curtains hung, Day said.

Those curtains, as well as materials kept under the connector roof, were burned in the fire, he said. However, firefighters were able to get a couple of fire trucks into the area early on and apply water to keep the flames from spreading to the manufacturing facility.

“That was a good move,” said Day, who noted the damage could have been much worse.

He added that no injuries resulted from the incident.

SSF Production LLC issued a statement Sunday expressing the business’s gratitude to all fire companies and State Police who quickly responded to the fire.

“We simply cannot say enough for the dedicated and professional response that was exhibited, which prevented further loss,” the statement said.

However, the statement did not include any information about company plans to reopen or rebuild.

The company had New York State Electric and Gas, as well as plumbers, electricians and contractors, working at the scene of the blaze Sunday, according to Day.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re potentially trying to get their manufacturing line back up right off next week,” he said.

And given that only the storage facility was lost, Day added, “I would suspect that they’re probably going to be able to.”

Still, he noted, he couldn’t speak for the company.

Members of the Clinton County Fire Investigation Unit and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control Arson Bureau were also on scene Sunday investigating the cause and origin of the blaze.

“We don’t have any concern of suspicion at this point,” Day said.

Though the manufacturing facility operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only two employees were on site at the time of the fire, as a lot of the plant’s functions are performed by machines, he noted.

Still, Clinton County Dispatch received between 25 and 30 calls about the blaze, Day said.

“I think a lot of the calls came from people along the Northway because the interstate is very close,” he said.

In addition, Day noted, smoke from the fire crept into the ventilation systems of businesses in the vicinity of Route 3 in Plattsburgh, causing several people to mistakenly report that structures in that area, including Ninety Nine restaurant and Shoe Dept., were also ablaze.

As a result, fire departments standing by for District 3 were dispatched to multiple locations on Route 3 Saturday night.

“It caused some confusion and some work, (and) what turned out to be false alarms,” Day said.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com