Smoke billows from a fire at the Domino Sugar factory in Baltimore.
A three-alarm fire tore through Domino Sugar’s massive raw sugar storage shed and entered the Baltimore sugar refinery on a conveyor belt Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
Firefighters were called about 3 p.m. to the storage shed behind the waterfront refinery at 1100 Key Highway East, where flames could be seen from a distance and thick smoke with an odor of burnt sugar billowed across the harbor.
The blaze originated in the area of the shed, and the flames traveled midway into the refinery building via a nearby conveyor belt, said Blair Adams, a Baltimore City Fire Department spokeswoman. Firefighters initially tried to enter the shed but were forced to fight the blaze from outside due to the intensity of the smoke and flames, Adams said.
The shed, which became fully engulfed, partially collapsed. All employees were able to evacuate the facility without assistance, and no injuries were reported, Adams said.
The refinery’s Florida-based owner, American Sugar Refining, Inc., said in a statement that all employees had been accounted for. The facility has halted operations, and the cause of the fire is under investigation, the company said.
Nearly two hours after the fire began, firefighters still were battling hot spots to gain full control of the fire. Despite the smoke and the heavy aroma of crème brûlée, Adams said the fire department has no concerns about any air-quality issues.
It’s not the first time a major fire has broken out at Domino. In November 2007, a powerful explosion and fires forced the refinery to shut down for a week. The powdered sugar mill was declared a total loss.
The 2007 explosion, which echoed across the harbor, was believed to have been caused by a buildup of sugar dust in the facility. Three workers suffered minor injuries.
In 2008, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Domino Sugar $4,000 in connection with the explosion. Domino also spent about $2.5 million to replace windows that shattered in the blast.