Firefighters race against time – and oozing molten glass – to save Parkrose plant

You’ve got to see these spectacular photos, taken inside the glass plant, that shows the inferno cause by a giant kettle cracking open – when it’s filled with tons of melted glass …

Firefighters peer into an inferno when a kettle cracks, dumping tons of glass at this outer East Portland plant. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Story by David F. Ashton, magnificent photos by Dick Harris, PF&R
What was expected to be another ordinary shift at the Owens Illinois glass container manufacturing plant, at 9710 NE Glass Plant Road, turned quite extraordinary on the evening of December 16.

The sprawling plant – it can clearly be seen from I-205 – houses four large kettles that melt recycled glass in order to such remanufacture glass containers as beer and wine bottles.

Near the blaze, firefighters get orders from the Portland Fire & Rescue Incident Commander. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“During this shift, only two glass kettles were in use – one for clear glass,and one for amber glass,” Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Public Information Officer Paul Corah told East Portland News. “The amber glass kettle was holding over 200 tons of molten glass, when the kettle split at the bottom, just before 9:00 p.m.”

Minutes later, when the first firefighters arrived on-scene, Corah said they saw molten glass inside the kettle began oozing into the containment area below the tank. “Responding firefighters immediately began pulling hose lines and spraying water on the kettle, and areas around the kettle, where the molten glass was spilling, to cool them.”

One crew of firefighters after another takes a position, as they work to cool the tons of fiery melted glass oozing from the cracked kettle. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Streams of glass drip from the cracked melt kettle into the containment area below. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

At 9:51 pm, the PF&R Incident Commander called for a second alarm, bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene.

“By calling a second alarm, a total of about ten crews were brought to the scene,” Corah explained. “The additional firefighters pulled more hose lines, and surround the kettle on the first and second levels of the plant, to protect the structure and surrounding machinery.”

Ringing the kettle on two levels, firefighters continue to pour thousands of gallons of water on the defective kettle and the glass that was to be recycled. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Well into the night, firefighters continued to direct streams of water onto the damaged kettle and to the slow the flow of oozing molten glass.

After the kettle was sufficiently cooled, Corah said, plant personnel took over and began the task of cleaning up 200 tons of glass. No one was injured in the incident.

Editor’s note: If there were awards for excellence in firefighting photography,
we’d nominate Dick Harris for the blue ribbon!

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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