A Lexington fiber processing plant was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after tons of cardboard caught fire next to the building.
The fire investigator found the blaze was caused by a small lithium battery that was in a cardboard package or box, Battalion Chief Mark Harvey said.
Cory Moberly, an employee of the Central Kentucky Fiber Resources plant on Angliana Avenue, said everyone was getting ready to leave for the day when he heard screams and saw the fire.
The plant processes recyclable material and sells it to mills that buy recovered paper and other recyclables, according to the group’s website.
Moberly said that the fire “could have been a lot worse” and that he was glad employees were there to notice the blaze. The fire department arrived about 4:10.
Employees in trucks helped firefighters move the cardboard mounds into water streams from fire hoses. Tons of smoking cardboard were soaked in a methodical process that took hours.
Harvey said soaking the cardboard was necessary to ensure pockets of the fire weren’t missed. He compared the firefighting tactic to “hot coals on a BBQ.”
“It may look like it’s out, but if you stir it up real good, it’s going to do it,” Harvey said.
Harvey said the plant’s owner estimated $20,000 worth of the material went up in smoke. Moberly estimated the amount of smoking cardboard could make 60 to 70 1-ton bales.
Harvey said there were no injuries in the fire.