Firefighters respond to smoke at AGI In-Store

All employees evacuated, no one injured
Apr. 04, 2014 @ 04:45 AM

Hundreds of employees were temporarily evacuated from the 500,000-square-foot AGI In-Store facility in Forest City, following a report of smoke coming from a manufacturing building on Thursday morning.

Shortly after 9 a.m., firefighters with the Sandy Mush Fire Department arrived at the scene, where a junction box inside the manufacturing plant shorted out and emitted smoke, causing fire alarms to be set off.

"That manufacturing building is toward the plant's main office area, but no offices are located where the incident occurred," said Erica Carson, Assistant Human Resource Manager at AGI In-Store. "But every building in the whole plant evacuates when the fire alarms go off."

Carson said the smoke also activated overhead sprinklers in the manufacturing building.

"The sprinklers are automatic and if there is any type of heat that is sensed in the area, they will react and come on," she said.

AGI In-Store is a division of American Greetings and designs, develops and manufactures in-store solutions for client partners including a diverse group of retailers and consumer product goods companies. The facility in Forest City employs about 400 people, including temporary workers.

Carson said the junction box, which is kind of like a breaker panel, had an electrical issue but the cause is uncertain at this time. She said no other damages were caused by the electrical short.

There were no injuries but two maintenance men were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Dennis Tarlton, recently retired Vice President of Operations at AGI In-Store, was at the plant Thursday morning during the electrical short and said it "sounded like something had dropped."

"The fire departments responded real quickly and did a great job. We appreciate that," he said.

Assisting at the scene were firefighters with Forest City Fire Rescue and Ellenboro Fire Department. Firefighters cleared the scene around 11 a.m.

Following the incident, the power to the manufacturing building was cut off by Duke Energy. Electricians worked through Thursday morning and restored power later that afternoon.

"Everyone evacuated exactly how they were supposed to, and we're just glad everybody got out okay," Carson said.

Most employees were able to return to their buildings Thursday morning, except for those working in the manufacturing building who were sent home for the day.

"The next step is to see what the root of the problem was and ensure that it doesn't happen again," Carson said.