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Berryville plant work to resume after explosion

By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

BERRYVILLE -- A little more than 48 hours after an explosion at Berryville Graphics, the company is poised to return to operation, a company official said Monday.

Cleanup and repair efforts were still under way after an explosion in one of the plant's baler rooms -- and accompanying fire in the machine's duct work -- had more than 100 firefighters occupied much of Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

About 125 employees working at the time were evacuated from the building. No one was injured.

Bob Robinson, the company's president, said all production was halted at the Jack Enders Boulevard printing plant Monday to focus on getting affected equipment back online.

"Our recovery is going well and proceeding as we thought it should," he said. "Hopefully by midnight, we'll be back to 100 percent."

All employees scheduled to work Monday were allowed to fill their shifts, he said.

Company staff, along with third-party contractors, were working to repair equipment, duct work, electrical systems and the building's fire and sprinkler safeguards.

Part of the plant was flooded by the sprinklers, causing wood blocks in the floor to warp and swell. Those had to be removed. In addition, a roofing company was working to close holes cut by firefighters to better access the building.

Equipment was being brought online in phases Monday.

Although the explosion occurred in a dust baling area at the plant, company and fire officials still are investigating how the fire ignited.

Balers at the plant compress paper waste into large bricks and move a large amount of dust and highly flammable material.

"It was almost like a release of pressure," Robinson said. "It certainly made an impact."

Gary Pope, a building official for Clarke County and volunteer firefighter who responded to the blaze, is supervising the cleanup effort for the county. He pointed to a blown 1,200-amp circuit breaker as a sign of mechanical failure.

"There had to be something major electrical going on there," he said. "It takes a whole lot of juice to break a 1,200-amp breaker. ... They've had problems in the baler room before, but it's just kind of the nature of the business."

Robinson said the company is researching new ways to reduce the amount of dust in the printing process, and "taking corrective action" to prevent another fire.

Although he declined to specify those corrections, he said the fire was not caused by employee negligence.

Jason Porter, chief of Berryville's John H. Enders Fire Company, estimated damages to infrastructure in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Pope said the plant "looked in pretty good shape" Monday afternoon.

"They have some qualified people there who know their systems well. It's quite an undertaking," he said. "They are a tremendous employer. It's important to the town and the county that they stay in operation."

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