The fire at the Domino Sugar raw sugar storage shed in Baltimore simmered into a second day Wednesday as the fire department awaited an excavator to lift the collapsed structure, but the adjacent refinery was unharmed and the company said it planned to resume limited operations Thursday.
“Once the excavator comes in and removes some of the bulk metals and materials, we’ll be able to get to the pit of the fire,” said Blair Adams, a fire department spokeswoman.
The refinery’s roughly 510 full-time employees all evacuated safely, and no employee injuries were reported during the fire that started 3 p.m. Tuesday. One firefighter suffered a minor injury in the emergency response, Adams said.
The cause of the blaze, which billowed thick smoke and a strong odor of burnt sugar across the harbor, remains under investigation.
Domino spokesman Peter O’Malley said a damage estimate was not yet available for the 55-year-old storage shed, which can hold 60 million pounds of raw, unrefined sugar. It’s unclear how much sugar was inside the shed at the time of the blaze.
The flames climbed sugar conveyor belts, threatening the refinery, but firefighters kept them outside the 99-year-old building, O’Malley said.
“We never had any fire inside the refinery,” the Domino spokesman said.
The refinery, which processes about 6.5 million pounds of sugar a day, halted operations Tuesday but brought back some employees Wednesday. It planned to resume limited operations Thursday, “processing, packaging and shipping what we have in the refinery already,” O’Malley said.
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“Select employees returned to the refinery today, and full power was restored at noon,” O’Malley said Wednesday evening. “Tomorrow, we’re going to start cleanup efforts in the raw sugar shed area, moving away the steel structure in coordination with the fire department.”
Domino’s parent company, American Sugar Refiners, will rely on its refineries in Yonkers, New York, and Chalmette, Louisiana, to backfill orders and seek to avoid any shortages.
“We’re going to be utilizing available volume and capacity in our existing network production facilities to fulfill all our customer orders,” O’Malley said.
It’s too soon to know how quickly the simmering sugar shed could be cleared and rebuilt. But it would be a third major construction project for a busy facility that is replacing its massive, beloved neon rooftop “Domino Sugars” sign with an LED replica and planning four new on-site finished sugar silos.
A melted dial on the fire engine’s pump panel looked like a Salvador Dalí painting in a photo tweeted by the International Association of Firefighters Local 734, the union that represents Baltimore firefighters.
“Once the building collapsed, one of our engines took a beating from the heat,” the union tweeted Wednesday. “Here is the aftermath. Fortunately nobody was injured. It should buff right out though.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.