The point of origin for a huge fire at International Paper Saturday night and Sunday morning has been narrowed down to a pair of locations, according to Rome Fire Marshal Mary Catherine Chewning.
The investigation into the cause of the fire has come to a temporary standstill, she said Tuesday, until structural engineers for the company can make sure those areas of the building are safe to get into.
The fire caused some roof collapse and compromised the integrity of exterior walls, but no one was seriously injured.
Investigators spent another five hours on the site Monday and went through areas that were accessible. They also adhered to social distancing protocols in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“We were able to make a lot of headway and are working hand in hand — er, elbow to elbow — with the International paper officials,” Chewing said. “They have been absolutely phenomenal to work with, but we don’t know what caused the fire yet and we’re trying to figure out what our next steps will be.”
They are sure the blaze did not start in the huge paper machines themselves.
Chewning said the one employee who was taken to the hospital for treatment for a smoke inhalation issue was back at work Tuesday.
International Paper officials declined to speculate as to the impact of the fire on production from the Rome plant which is a major manufacturer of cardboard liner board used in shipping containers.