SHEBOYGAN COUNTY -- Workers were forced to evacuate when a fire broke out overnight Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Kohler Company -- located on Highland Dr. in the Village of Kohler. Conditions were made dangerous due to large amounts of liquid metal inside the foundry.
Officials were called to the scene around 11:30 p.m.
"Initial reports included heavy smoke and fire from the roof of the building," said Kohler Fire Chief Mike Lindstrom.
Chief Lindstrom said the fire started in the basement, and eventually spread to the roof.
"That area of the building is used for melting a lot of heavy metals," said Kohler Fire Department Captain Chris Berlin.
Captain Berlin said firefighters couldn't use water on entire areas of the building because of how it would react to liquid metal.
"You could easily have an explosion," Berlin said.
Dry chemicals were used to fight the fire until they found the source and were able to use water. We're told the basement of the foundry is an electrical area which powers the furnaces.
"The fire was far back on the campus area but Kohler is a very, very large facility," said Firefighter John Ewert.
Ewert said more than 10 departments responded to the fire which took more than six hours to put out. No injuries were reported.
"It's important to understand that it takes time to make sure everybody is safe from the fire department standpoint and the employee standpoint," said Ewert.
Ewert said areas of the foundry remain closed as the exact cause is investigated, however the greater Kohler complex was operating as usual Thursday.
"Your average person really wouldn't know there was a fire last night at Kohler, unless they heard it on the news," said Ewert.
At approximately of 6:40 a.m., on Thursday, command units reported the fire being completely extinguished. Cast iron operations impacted by the fire have been suspended until further notice.
“At this time, the discussions I’ve had with Kohler Company Maintenance and Management indicated that the nature of the fire was leaning toward an equipment malfunction," said Assistant Chief Gary Lindow.
The official cause of the fire is still under investigation.