Crews respond to a fire at a lumber manufacturing plant in eastern Berks

Fire crews from five departments in Berks and Montgomery County rushed to Bally Block Co. Thursday morning for a blaze that started from an industrial spark-ignited wood chipper.

Crews from the Eastern Berks Fire Department arrived first at 30 S. Seventh St., Bally at 8:14 a.m.

The fire was brought under control about 45 minutes after crews arrived, said Mike Mutter, chief of the Eastern Berks.

The fire caused no structural or machinery damage and only burned sawdust filter bags, which contained the flames as part of the facility’s automatic fire response, Mutter said.

“It’s a typical problem there when they have a nail or a bullet in a piece of wood, it sets off a spark or starts a fire,” Mutter said.

When that happens, the facility’s automated vacuum system kicks in and sucks the flames through a filtration system with sprinklers that extinguishes the fire, according to Mutter.

“(The fire suppression system) did exactly what it’s supposed to do, it just leaves a mess to clean up afterwards,” Mutter said.

Between 75 and 100 employees were safely evacuated for about an hour while fire crews ran a hose to the wood grinder in the basement where the fire started and checked the affected areas at looking for hot spots.

A damage estimate was not available Thursday evening.

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