URBANA — A spark from a welding torch caused a fire at the Solo Cup plant in east Urbana early Thursday.
The fire was put out quickly but smoke damage prompted the evacuation of about 150 to 200 workers from the plant at 1505 E. Main St. and damaged an undetermined amount of product there, said Urbana Fire Chief Mike Dilley.
"We had an independent contractor here working on the dock doors doing some welding and sparks from the welding ignited padding around the dock," Dilley said.
The fire was reported at 8:33 a.m. Dilley said workers used fire extinguishers on it before firefighters arrived.
"The fire originated on the outside of the building and just inside there was a sprinkler head that activated. The guy who was doing the welding shut the overhead door, which helped keep the fire out of the building. However, the smoke kind of penetrated the building. We are using the big fan again to exhaust the smoke from the building," he said.
Dilley said the quick thinking of the welder to shut the door, together with the workers using fire extinguishers and the activated sprinkler head "averted what could have been a very big fire."
Dilley said the entire plant was evacuated. In less than an hour, several workers were allowed back in and were assisting with the cleanup.
He described damage to the dock as moderate, estimating it at $25,000, but said the loss of inventory inside due to the smoke would likely be greater.
"I don't even know where to begin," he said of the product inside.
No one was injured, he said.
"Our guys are just overheated. Now that the emergency is over, we're trying to get them out of here as quick as possible," he said. "We just have to make sure it's not in any other part of the building."