A massive fire tore through The Metrocity Times printing plant in the Docklands early Tuesday morning. The crushing smoke and constant spray of fire hoses from pumper trucks turned this section of much anticipated revitalization into a wasteland. The fire has annihilated the printing plant.
The Metrocity Fire Department battled the blaze throughout the night, trying to get the fire under control.
A fire department spokesperson said a call came into dispatch about 2 a.m., two hours before plant personnel arrived for their shift. The 9-1-1 call was made by the building’s security staff, Pravda Security Corp.
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Although fire officials said they are still trying to confirm it, witnesses at the scene said the sprinkling system in the building failed to activate. A failure of this kind was the result of foul play at an abandoned tobacco warehouse in this neighborhood just three months ago. However, nothing has been confirmed or denied regarding the printing plant.
Chief Pravda security officer Luis Sanchez said, “We called the authorities as soon as the fire started. We did our best to get everyone out, but with the sprinklers not working, we had to move very quickly.”
The Metrocity Fire Department responded within minutes to the alert, but the fire was already too advanced for fire personnel to do anything but limit the damage.
Originally 50 firefighters were sent to the scene, said Fire Chief Al Reynolds. However, when it looked like the fire could get out of control, an additional 50 firefighters were called in.
“Our initial concern was containing the fire and making sure that everyone got out of the building safely. Luckily, the building is located in an isolated area, which made containment easier,” Reynolds said.
The Metrocity printing press is located on 150 Barge Street. The building is on the southern end of the Docklands, an area that the mayor has targeted for revitalization. The printing press was the first step in the mayor’s plan to make the southern docks safer and more viable. The mayor’s office was not available to comment on how the fire would impact the revitalization effort.
Six ladder trucks were used in combating the fire, along with the city's fire boat, which drew water from the bay to areas harder to reach by standard ladder trucks. The fire finally was extinguished by early afternoon.
While putting out the blaze, two firemen were hospitalized due to heat exhaustion. Both were still hospitalized at press time. Sanchez also was treated on the scene for minor injuries.
“I was just doing my job. I had to make sure everyone got out. I kind of just pushed my fears out of my mind and focused on the fire,” said Sanchez.
As of press time, the city fire marshal’s office said the cause of the fire was still under investigation. The Department of Environmental Protection also has been called in to investigate the fire.
Debra Zanning, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the state agency was on the scene to evaluate the extent to which inks and other hazardous solvents used in the printing process may have contaminated the ground and the nearby bay.
For the foreseeable future, The Metrocity Times will be printed at the Metro City Eagle facilities, said Jack Harrington, editor of the Metro City Times.
“We are still trying to get a handle on what happened at our facility. We are pleased with the way the fire department handled things and are anxious to see the results of their investigation,” said Harrington.
Aisha Washington is a staff reporter for The Metrocity Times. She has covered the Metrocity for five years. Prior to that she served as an intern for The Metrocity Times. This is her first investigative series.