Worker Killed in Quad Plant Fire
LOMIRA, WI—A collapsed automated racking system was suspected as the culprit behind the July 12 fire at Quad/Graphics' plant here that destroyed most of a 10-story warehouse and killed an outside-contracted worker.
Fire investigators told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the collapse of the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) likely caused a portion of the building to collapse, sparking the blaze. Keith Freiberg, 22, an employee with Aero Building Maintenance, perished when the building collapsed upon the vehicle in which he was sitting. According to the paper, Freiberg had just finished his shift with Aero, Quad/Graphics' cleaning service.
Dodge County authorities later stated that structural failure was the lone logical cause behind the building's collapse. Sheriff Jerold Witte told the Journal Sentinel that the storage racking system collapsed and triggered the blaze, or the concrete to which the system was connected failed. He added it was too soon to speculate which part of the building failed.
A total of 330 employees on duty were safely evacuated and no other injuries were reported. Only two forklift operators were in the affected storage facility. The fire was contained to Quad's automated storage and retrieval system, the company said in a message on its Website. The manufacturing facility was unaffected, and production resumed on July 14.
Firefighters worked for days to put out hot spots in damaged printed products roughly 30 feet high and 500 feet in length. Nearly two million gallons of water were pumped onto the blaze between 9:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., the Journal Sentinel reported. Another 6.5 million gallons were used to extinguish the blaze on July 15. As of July 18, an estimated 15 million gallons of water had been used, and approximately 50 fire departments from Dodge and Fond du Lac counties had participated in the operation.
Sixty trucks removed damaged paper, mostly magazines and catalogs—as well as metal. More than a dozen pieces of heavy machinery worked on the scene.
The ASRS building, more than 700 feet long and 100,000 square feet—including staging areas—was built earlier this year. It had a capacity of 30,008 pallets. Six crane aisles housed six storage retrieval machines, according to the company, which delivered product to one of two delivery points.
"Quad/Graphics continues to actively participate with investigators from various governmental agencies in determining the cause of the destruction," the company said in a statement. "Investigators and experts inform us that the cause may not be known for some time."
The paper reported that catalogs for L.L. Bean, Cabela's and Reliable Office Supplies were in the storage area at the time. A majority of work was in the process of being sent to the bindery.
All 24 presses were running at the two million-square-foot campus to replace the lost product, but some of the work was also sent to Quad's Martinsburg, WV, facility. The Martinsburg plant was working around the clock to replace the lost work.
The company has said it would cover all the lost wages of volunteer firefighters who took time off from their regular jobs.
A moment of silence was held for Freiberg on July 18 as employees, firefighters and site cleanup crews ceased working at 11 a.m., which coincided with the commencement of his funeral services. Quad/Graphics has established a memorial fund in Freiberg's name. The company will also match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar.