Recently, a fire broke out at the Yuengling brewery facility located in Tampa, Florida. No employees were injured and one firefighter suffered minor injuries from the fire, which took about an hour to get under control. Also, although none of the product was jeopardized, damage estimates are close to $1 million.

According to Jim Helmke, Director of Operations at Yuengling, “The fire itself was very dramatic and very frightening…but, this could have been far, far, far worse.”

Fire investigators believe the fire started when a worker was performing hot work too close to structural materials. Helmke said that a welder most likely started the fire when old beams in the wall were heated and then began to smolder. The smoldering could have gone unnoticed for several hours before the walls caught on fire.

A hot work incident like this one, where smoldering occurs in hidden combustibles and where fire breaks out several hours later within concealed spaces inside a wall, is very difficult to get to and to extinguish. Over 60 firefighters reported to this two-alarm fire and some had to climb five stories in order to enter the building, which was full of dense smoke and high heat conditions. Fire crews were then evacuated and firefighting tactics changed to an external attack using multiple aerial ladder trucks.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during this fire incident caused by hot work. But, time and time again, hot work remains a leading cause of industrial fires. It continues to be responsible for many injuries, fatalities, and significant loss of property, as evident in the loss estimate of the October Yuengling fire.

Hot work accidents are often completely preventable. For tips to help prevent hot work incidents check out our post, Think Personal Safety Before Firing Up that Torch”.  There are also many other articles and resources on the topic available on our website. The easiest way to find them is to use the search function located in the left-hand navigation. Just type in any keyword, like “hot work”, “torch”, or “welding”, click search, and you’ll be on your way to finding more resources.

In addition, qualified fire protection engineers can assist you by providing associate and contractor training, as well as guidance in the development of written hot work safety management policies and procedures. If you would like more information on how we can provide such assistance, contact us today.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.