Firefighters were still dousing hotspots and combing through smoldering rubble Wednesday to determine the source of a fire that destroyed an RV-manufacturing facility on Elkhart’s east side.
This story by Jon Gard originally appeared in The Elkhart Truth.
No injuries were reported at Forest River Plant 59, 411 C.R. 15, but the building was a total loss, according to Elkhart Fire Chief Chad Carey.
About 60 people worked at the plant, according to employees at the scene, but only five or six were in the facility when the fire was discovered near the end of the work day about 3:45 p.m.
Forest River officials could not be reached for comment.
No cause for the fire had been determined as of Wednesday afternoon, the chief said. Investigators were first trying to determine exactly where the fire started.
An excavator was used overnight to pull apart sections of roof that had collapsed so firefighters could extinguish hot spots.
Employees at the scene reported hearing small explosions or pops before fleeing from the building. Carey said he suspects LP gas tanks near the front of the facility must have ignited early, and that the fire spread quickly.
Carey credited his crew and those with Osolo and Concord townships for moving quickly and containing the fire to one building. Surrounding properties sustained no damage, he said. About 40 firefighters were on the scene.
Forest River is the second largest employer in the county, according to the Economic Development Corporaton of Elkhart County, with about 10,000 workers. This plant was used to manufacture the Vibe, employees said.