- Associated Press - Sunday, April 15, 2018

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - A “horrific” fire that started on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, has made one Muskegon company “stronger.”

The foundry fire at Muskegon Casting Corp. rendered the 75,000-square-foot building and all equipment inside a total loss, said John Essex, CEO of Port City Group.

Total property loss - building and equipment - was more than $20 million, he said. Everything was covered by insurance.

“Fire was throughout the building. There were mass amounts of smoke,” said Muskegon Public Safety Director Jeffrey Lewis, the morning after the fire. “It sounds pretty horrific.”

An estimated 40 employees were able to safely evacuate, Lewis said. Firefighters battled the blaze throughout the night and into the morning.

The roof and walls collapsed before the firefighters were able to extinguish the flames.

“I will never forget that day,” Essex said. “It’s burned into my memory.”

But he tends to look toward the positive: no one was injured or killed, and no one lost their job.

“We got through it - we’re a stronger organization as a result,” Essex said.

One year after the fire, which was caused by equipment failure, all 100 employees were back to work at other Port City Group facilities - the one that burned down was one of six at the time, he said.

Eventually, the work that was done at the Sheridan foundry was moved to a facility on Latimer Drive in Muskegon, Essex said. Prior to the fire, that building was about 50 percent used.

“That was the quickest way back,” he told The Muskegon Chronicle .

As of March, the company had about 60 percent of capacity back, with plans for 100 percent restoration by June 1.

The space at the Latimer facility means there’s no need to rebuild, Essex said. However, Port City Group still owns the property, which has been cleared of all debris, and could rebuild if extra capacity is needed.

Muskegon Castings Corp., owned by Port City Group, produces aluminum die castings for the automotive industry. Its customers include General Motors, Toyota, Subaru and BMW. Port City Group is a division of Pace Industries. Its five Muskegon-area facilities have about 525 employees.


Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon

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