MFD battles fire at Kawasaki

A Morristown firefighter examines a piece of equipment on fire at the Kawasaki plant Thursday. For video from the incident, go online to www.citizentribune.com.

A potentially dangerous situation was averted Thursday night at the Kawasaki Tennessee facility in the East Tennessee Progress Center after hydraulic fluid from a ruptured line poured on a furnace that was filled with molten aluminum, Morristown Fire Department Deputy Chief Brian Shepard said this morning.

If a substantial amount of hydraulic fluid would have come in contact with the 1,400-degree metal, an explosion would have been highly likely.

As it turned out, only a small amount of fluid leaked into the furnace when the door was open, and firefighters used an extinguisher to douse the flare-up, according to Shepard.

Kawasaki management and maintenance staff recognized the potential for an explosion and evacuated the building before firefighters arrived shortly after 10 p.m.

“If it had mixed, they were pretty sure it would have exploded,” Shepard said. “It would have been like pouring water on a grease fire.

The deputy fire chief says production resumed after the fire was extinguished.

Two firefighters used a pike pole to open the furnace door. Two other stood by to help them in case they caught fire, and a rapid intervention team was poised outside to come to the rescue if a worse-case scenario emerged, according to Shepard.