Several suffer from heat exhaustion after glass leak at Vitro plant

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 3:06 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Wichita Falls Fire Department officials said they were on scene at Vitro Architectural Glass late into Sunday night after a glass leak caused a fire and sent multiple employees to the hospital.

“We were doing a repair to one of our two glass furnaces,” Bill Haley, vice president of US Operations at Vitro Architectural Glass, said. “During the repair, a water-cooled piece of equipment came out of position and allowed hot molten glass to escape from the furnace.”

The temperature of the molten glass was between 2500 and 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“As they would cool the environment, there would be more very hot molten glass impacting the area that was on fire,” Chief Ken Prillaman, WFFD fire chief, said. “So the crews constantly battled that while workers at Vitro attempted to patch where the molten glass was leaking.”

Vitro had six employees that were sent to the hospital for heat exhaustion. Fire officials confirmed a firefighter was also injured but said they were doing well.

READ: Vitro releases statement on glass leak

“Fortunately all six employees have been released, five were released yesterday evening and one was released this morning,” Haley said. “All employees have seen our company doctor this morning and have been cleared to come back to work.”

After the fire was put out, fire crews stayed to monitor the area while they repaired the leak to make sure another fire would not break out. It was repaired around 11:30 p.m. Sunday night and miraculously no equipment was damaged.

“It did not cause any extreme damage or any damage to the furnace or the surrounding steel, any of the electrical equipment at all,” Haley said. “As of right now there is not any permanent damage or anything that has been sustained to the furnace and we are taking operations back to normal.”

Vitro officials want to express how important their employees’ safety is to them and will work to make sure nothing like this happens again.

“Our employees’ safety is the number one concern we have every single day,” Haley said. “We believe all injuries, no matter how minor in nature, are preventable. We are in the process of reviewing all of these incidents to make sure they never happen again.”

NOTE: The Wichita County Sheriff’s Office initially reported this incident as an explosion, but that information has since been corrected.

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