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Fire damages stacks of pots Cause of the Marshall Pottery blaze under investigation; main building undamaged

By Terri Richardson trichardson@marshallnewsmessenger.com
Sept. 10, 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

Marshall Firefighters work in a tight space created by pallets of pottery to put out a fire at Marshall Pottery\u002e The fire damaged the stacks of pots but did not get to the main building\u002e\u000d

A fire damaged thousands of terra cotta pots at Marshall Pottery, Friday afternoon as Marshall Fire Department doused the flames.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation at press time.

"There's no way this spontaneously ignited," said Marshall Fire Capt. David Gray, acting battalion chief on duty Friday. "Pottery is nonflammable, so only the pallets and plastic are burning."

The fire department was sent about 6 p.m. to Marshall Pottery, 4901 Elysian Fields Road, after smoke coming from the back of the building was reported. The source of the smoke was a fire growing in the middle of one of the plant's outdoor warehouse spaces lined with hundreds of thousands of pots.

"We sprayed a foam blanket to contain the fire to the area and the company is using forklifts to get to the center of it," said Gray.

Gray said the area involved in the fire was about 30 feet by 100 feet. It was mostly blocked from view by pots of varying size still resting on pallets, stacked three high and tightly arranged.

Stefano Celletti, president of Deroma USA, arrived to the outdoor warehouse after the fire department and watched as smoke rose from the stock. He also coordinated the few employees on scene to help the firefighters by clearing the perimeter of un-scorched products.

"We have insurance for this reason. This is not due to production and started from the middle of our storage," said Celletti. "The pallets have been there for many days."

The warehouse closed at 5 p.m. Friday, so very few employees were on the grounds when the fire was discovered and none were injured.

"We are lucky we are building stock for the next season and this is not going to make us lose sales," said Celletti. "This would be worse if it were January or February."

Marshall Pottery supplies 70 percent of the U.S. market for terra cotta pots, which are sold through outlets like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, Celletti said.

Firefighters delivered water into the slight gaps through a series of hoses and one firefighter said it was "like that game at the carnival where you spray the water in the clown's mouth."

Protective cardboard lining the layers of pots, depending on their size, was also burning. Freed from their plastic packaging the pots fell and made a distinct shattering sound.

Firefighters climbed on the crumbled earthenware pieces to better douse areas where the fire spread or smoldered on beneath the hill of broken flowerpots and charred pallets.

"This fire had been burning a while," said Gray. "A lot of the pallets had caved in on each other by the time we got here. It had been burning for a while."

Nine firefighters from all three Marshall Fire Department stations responded to the fire, Gray said.

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