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Recycled Plastics back in business

A Recycled Plastics Inc. worker used a computer navigated cutting machine to make parts for a customer. The company moved into this smaller building on its property after a March 14 fire destroyed the main building. Photo by Al Edenloff.

Out of the ashes of a fire that destroyed its main building, comes a new beginning for Recycled Plastics Inc. (RPI) in Garfield.

By last Thursday, the company had replaced the inventory that was lost in the March 14 blaze and moved to another building on its site along County Road 82, according to owner Clair Angland.

"We're up and running again," Angland said in an interview with the newspaper last week. "We're looking forward to business as usual and are moving forward."

The company's new home, which comprises about 8,000 square feet, is a little tight compared to the 17,000-square-foot building that was lost in the fire.

But the company has brought in storage facilities from Pro-Tainer in Alexandria and is adapting to its new space, according to Angland.

RPI produces recycled plastic sheets and products, and cuts, fabricates and assembles parts and products for the boating, store fixtures and furniture industries.

At about 4 a.m. on March 14, a night crew employee saw signs of the fire and called 911.

The Garfield Fire Department battled the blaze, with assistance of firefighters from Alexandria, Brandon, Leaf Valley, Kensington and Evansville, but the fire spread quickly and consumed the building.

Everything inside was burned to a crisp. Twisted, charred metal is all that remains.

Angland estimated the loss at between $2 million and $3 million.

"It took absolutely everything," he said. "All that's left is a half-burned pizza cutter."

The fire was also extremely hot. Angland said fire investigators speculated that the temperature exceeded 2,200 degrees.

"There were sheets of aluminum, five by 10 feet, that were turned into puddles," Angland said.

The investigation into the cause of the fire determined that the fire began when one of three pieces of equipment created enough heat to burst into flames, Angland said.

Some jobs also went up in smoke. The company cut five of the 11 positions it employed but Angland hopes the layoffs will be temporary.

"Most of our customers are sticking with us," Angland said. "We're waiting to see how everything plays out and whether we'll rebuild."

The company, which was formed in 1991 by a local group of individuals, has been able to recover from the fire on its own, despite an outpouring of offers to help from the community.

"The plant manager and I received between 100 and 200 phone calls from people asking to help, so that made us feel good," Angland said.