Worton, MD – Sprinkler system credited with helping to control fire after explosion at manufacturing plant

Investigators are pointing to mechanical failure of production machinery as the cause of Saturday’s industrial building fire at Creafill Fibers Corp. The plant in the 10000-block of Worton Road manufactures cellulose fibers, according to Lori Toevs, controller and director of human resources.

One plant employee was injured as a result of a subsequent dust explosion. The employee was thrown back into a pallet of product, Toevs said in a telephone interview Monday.

The employee was transported by ambulance to the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, where he was treated and released.

Volunteer firefighters from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, Kent-Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad and Kent EMS responded.

The fire was brought under control in two hours, according to the fire marshal’s report. Crews were on the scene for about three hours.

There were no reported injuries to firefighters or emergency personnel.

Worton Road, which also is state Route 297, was closed to through traffic for a couple of hours.

The alarm sounded at 3:09 p.m. Saturday after an employee observed a small fire inside a production machine.

The employee powered off the machine. Upon opening a filter cover within the machine to investigate further, he was “flown back” as a result of a pressure wave created by a subsequent dust explosion, according to the fire marshal’s preliminary report.

The employee was able to escape the building and call 911.

Proper activation of the sprinkler system and pressure relief vent system is credited with limiting damage to the 75 foot-by-200 foot steel frame building and its contents.

In-house the building is called the “white line,” Toevs said. That’s where product (cellulose fiber) is made out of natural pulp. Toevs said the operation is 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Manufacturing started at the Worton site in 1995. Currently there are 35 employees, Toevs said.

The “white line” was not operating Monday and Tuesday due to cleanup.

Toevs said on Wednesday that the expectation was to start “producing product” by the end of the week.

She estimated the value of damaged equipment to be $20,000, what she guessed it would cost to replace the explosion caps on filters.

“We’re just starting to assess … we’re not sure what we’ve lost,” Toevs said Monday. “We didn’t lose a lot of finished product but we lost raw materials.”

Also to be calculated is the cost of cleanup.

Firefighters returned to Creafill at about 10 p.m. Sunday for a report of fire in the roof. On arrival they found “a smoke haze in the building,” according to a posting on the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company’s Facebook page.

Firefighters pulled open the metal ceiling and doused smoldering embers, according to the Facebook post.

No injuries were reported.

Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Matt Stevens said his office was not called out to the incident.

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