LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 3 (Reuters) - A huge fire ripped through a section of General Electric’s Louisville, Kentucky facility used for warehousing and offices on Friday, forcing the giant industrial park to shut down for at least the coming week, the company and union officials said.
“The fire at GE Appliance Park has been contained,” said Kim Freeman, a GE spokeswoman. No one was injured in the blaze, according to company and city officials.
Building six - a non-production building which warehouses production parts and contains offices - suffered extensive damage, according to the company spokeswoman.
Smoke from the fire at GE’s Appliance Park could be seen more than 10 miles (16 km) away, and debris was found more than a half-mile away.
Televised aerial footage showed a raging fire, dense dark smoke and collapsed building walls.
GE evacuated the remaining buildings in the 900-acre (365-hectare) complex, spokeswoman Kim Freeman said.
The fire was contained to the warehouse and office building, where no production took place, she added.
The fire will force the park, which serves as headquarters for the company’s appliance division, to be shut for at least a week, a union official said.
GE said that an alternate space for the Building 6 warehousing operations has been identified and it does not anticipate any disruption for customers.
The Louisville Zoo, located nearby, was closed due to the fire as well as heavy rains.
“Smoke clouds came directly over the zoo, and we are making sure the animals and staff are safe and putting animals inside for the day,” said Louisville Zoo spokeswoman Kyle Shepherd.
“They need to make sure everything’s safe,” said Dana Crittendon, president of IUE-CWA Local 83761 which represents factory workers at Appliance Park.
Freeman said canceling production will allow the company to replenish production parts and conduct a thorough evaluation of all the other buildings.
GE also said it leased out office space in the park to Derby Industries LLC, a packaging and warehousing service provider. Derby did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The blaze occurred at the same time heavy rains caused flash flooding that forced public schools to be closed on Friday.
Jody Martin, a spokeswoman for Louisville’s emergency management agency, said the weather did not hinder firefighters’ efforts.
Last year, GE announced the sale of its century-old appliance and lighting division to Electrolux for $3.3 billion. That deal is expected to close later this year. (Additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Bernard Orr, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)