For the fourth time in three months, firefighters were called to the Union, S.C., facility of Standard Textiles to extinguish a fire in the mill. The most recent blaze, on May 11, sparked in a tenter machine, a specialized oven used to dry and heat treat fabric after wet processing.
While four fires in such close succession may sound like an indicator of a problem, Bonham Fire Department Fire Chief Scott Austin attributes the blazes to “a string of bad luck” rather than negligence by Cincinnati-based Standard. According to Austin, a power outage that disabled exhaust fans extracting heat from the tenter caused one of the fires, while another blaze was the result of an outlet that shorted during a lightbulb change and ignited lint.
Austin said he wasn’t aware of any complaints against or fire code violations by the company. No injuries were reported for any of the fires.
“For it being a textile manufacturing facility, it’s really clean compared to some of the other ones I’ve known of years ago,” Austin said.
According to Charles Price, health compliance officer at South Carolina OSHA, the only complaint filed against Standard came in 2016 and involved issues with ventilation.
Standard Textile produces fabrics for healthcare, hospitality, interiors and apparel markets, and operates manufacturing facilities in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. The company invested more than $15 million in an expansion of the Union, S.C., facility last year after similar expansions in 2013 and 2014 that poured $7.5 million into the plant.
Last week, Standard also was named a 2022 U.S. Best Managed Company, a program sponsored by Deloitte Private and The Wall Street Journal. Designees were chosen as private companies that have demonstrated excellence in strategic planning and execution, a commitment to their people and fostering a dynamic, resilient culture, as well as strong financials. This is the second year Standard received the distinction.
Standard Textile did not respond to requests for comment.
In response to the fires, Austin said the company has initiated quarterly training with the fire department that will include information for both Standard employees and the firefighters.
“They are going to go over their process with all of us so our younger firefighters who may not know what a tenter machine does will know,” he said. “Also we are going to go over fire extinguisher training with all their employees and remind everyone to always be aware of fire safety.”