At approximately 12:25 p.m., on April 16, 1984, workmen were performing arc welding operations on a hot press in the International Paper Company's Nacogdoches, Texas plywood manufacturing plant. During welding operations, deposits of oil, pitch, and wood dust which collected on the press, the catwalks, the wood structural members of the roof assembly, and the plywood roof deck ignited. The fire spread rapidly over the accumulated deposits both above and below the automatic sprinklers. Fire department units began arriving at the plant at 12:28 p.m. and found the plywood manufacturing facility heavily involved in fire. Within five minutes after the arrival of the initial fire department units, the building was "fully involved." Roof collapse began approximately ten minutes later. The fire destroyed the plywood manufacturing facility, resulting in an estimated loss of 32.5 million dollars.
Construction of the plant facilities began in 1969, and the plant was operational in August 1970. The plywood manufacturing building encompassed approximately 218,000 undivided square feet of all wood construction. In 1979, a 19,000 square foot addition of steel construction was added to the south end of the original building. This addition housed the jet dryers and other processing equipment.
The building was protected throughout by twelve dry-pipe automatic sprinkler systems and two dry-pipe standpipe systems.
Three factors were identified during the investigation as significant in the rapid fire spread and loss of the building. These factors were:
The accumulation of highly combustible deposits of oil, pitch, and wood dust generated in the plywood manufacturing process;
The lack of adequate fire prevention measures during arc welding operations;
The obstructed piping with in the dry-pipe automatic sprinkler systems.
For more information on this Fire Investigation report Plywood Manufacturing Plant Fire Those who would like more information on industrial and manufacturing fires Fires in U.S. Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities