OAKWOOD VILLAGE, Ohio (WJW) — The cause of a deadly explosion and fire at an Oakwood Village metal manufacturing plant Monday afternoon is still undetermined, and being investigated by the State Fire Marshal.
But the explosion likely happened in the building’s foundry, firefighters said Tuesday.
Village Fire Capt. Brian DiRocco said local firefighters were called to I. Schumann & Co.’s Alexander Road plant just before 2:30 p.m. Monday. There they found “heavy smoke and fire conditions throughout the entire building” along with several injured workers.
DiRocco said it was the largest fire he’s ever seen in his career and likely the largest in the village in “a very long time.” They called in assistance from 14 other departments, bringing several dozens more firefighters to the scene.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office released a statement Tuesday:
The cause of the explosion remains undetermined at this time as the investigation continues. Investigators with the Division of State Fire Marshal have interviewed several witnesses and at this time do not believe the explosion was the result of a criminal act. The Hillcrest-Heights Regional Investigation Unit, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio are all assisting in the investigation.Jennifer Jarrell, Ohio State Fire Marshal spokesperson
The facility produces copper alloys, according to its website. Most of its operation is a foundry, where molten metals are held in kettles.
“That’s where it appears the origin of the blast happened,” DiRocco told reporters.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man killed as 46-year-old Steven Mullins, of North Ridgeville.
The company issued a statement on his death Tuesday:
It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of Steven Mullins, one of our valued colleagues and good friend to all. Steve was with the company for nearly 30 years working in our maintenance group. He will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with his family at this time. We would like to thank the many first responders whose quick action following our accident yesterday ensured our employees who needed medical care got it quickly.
There is no immediately available information regarding a cause for this accident. We expect it will take time before we know more. We intend to cooperate with OSHA and other officials in their investigation as we search for answers in this tragic accident. We are working with our employees regarding their needs while the facility is idle and hope to have clarity on our operations in the near future.I. Schumann & Co.
Thirteen people were taken to the hospital, most of them with burns, according to the Oakwood Village Fire Department. There was no update on their conditions provided Tuesday.
University Hospitals told FOX 8 Tuesday that the seven people treated there have since been released.
The company was expected to release more information on the employees Tuesday, DiRocco said.
The explosion sparked a massive fire at I. Schumann & Co. shortly after 2:15 p.m.
Flying over the scene, FOX 8 SkyFOX helicopter showed a fire and a large plume of smoke coming from the building. From the ground, debris can be seen scattered hundreds of yards away and a large chunk of the building is missing. Some of the nearby cars caught on fire as well.
Fire crews contained the fire within a couple hours, DiRocco said. No firefighters were injured, he said.
Firefighters stood by at the scene overnight Monday, watching for potential hot spots, DiRocco said. Since then, they’ve been combing through that debris, trying to figure out where the fire started.
“The interior of the building — it’s pretty catastrophic,” he said Tuesday. “We’re working with structural engineers to see where it’s safe to conduct an investigation.”
DiRocco noted that the factory building was “in good standing” on fire inspections.
Reports of a burnt rubber odor were reported miles away in Seven Hills and Broadview Heights.
DiRocco said he could not speak to any possible health concerns for those living near the area or downwind. Officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency were on-scene Monday and Tuesday, but did not suggest an evacuation, he said.
I. Schumann and Co. on Monday evening released a statement to the media regarding the incident:
An explosion of unknown origin struck our Bedford, Ohio facility today resulting in injuries to employees and significant damage to the facility. Our efforts now are focused on supporting the first responders who came on scene quickly to help our employees. The safety and health of our employees is our top priority and we commit to ensuring they receive the medical care they need. We will work alongside investigators in their search for answers as part of our commitment to Northeast Ohio where we have been operating for more than 100 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with our team members and their families at this difficult time.