Biomass Energy building torched

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

SOUTH POINT— An empty building belonging to Biomass Energy LLC caught fire Wednesday morning as a demolition team was working to tear down the old structure.

“It appears to be accidental from careless welding, torching, cutting, whatever you want to say,” State Fire Marshal Bob Lawless said.

Southern Ohio Salvage is the contractor for the demolition project. An employee there who did not want to give his name said no one was actually inside the building when it caught fire.

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“We had a man in the manlift cutting a beam on the outside of the building when the fire started inside,” he said. “By the time we got a door cut to the outside the petition wall was a little hotter than we wanted to deal with.”

He said the whole structure should be completely demolished by the middle of next week.

Firefighters from Perry, Upper, Burlington-Fayette, South Point and Elizabeth township fire departments were called to the scene.

“It was hard to get into,” South Point Assistant Fire Chief Bill Igo said. “There was lots of junk in there, insulation, dry wall, stuff torn down while they’re demolishing the building.”

Jim Leach, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said EPA officials did go to the site Wednesday but doubted the fire would have an environmental impact. The representative of Southern Ohio Salvage said workers had already removed asbestos.

News of the fire, one of at least three at the Biomass site over the last eight years, was met with criticism from South Point Village Councilman David Classing, who expressed concern about the latest blaze.

In August 1999, the trickling tower left over from South Point Ethanol’s tenure but on Biomass property caught fire after a spark from a welder’s torch lit a blaze. In June 2003 a pile of tobacco caught fire, the same day Biomass was supposed to begin removing the material from the site on orders from the EPA.

Classing said while Biomass does not actually stand within village limits, village residents nonetheless are affected by incidents there and he is concerned.

“When the trickling tower burned they had to order a shelter in place,” he said. “Everything he (Biomass CEO Mark Harris) needs taken care of catches fire.”

Harris was contacted by telephone about this story. A message was left on his voice mail. The telephone call was not returned as of press time.