Fire and rescue crews from across the city are fighting a massive blaze that broke out at General Electric Appliance Park in Buechel this morning. More than 100 firefighters are on the scene.
Black smoke can be seen billowing from Building 6, which GE uses as a warehouse and storage facility. The plume can be seen from miles away in all directions, from the Highlands to Southern Indiana.
GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman tells Insider Louisville that no injuries have been reported; she has no additional details to report at this time.
As of 9:15 a.m., IL staffer Stephen George, who is on the scene, says the exterior of the building is collapsing.
UPDATE at 10:30 a.m.
The heavy black smoke pouring out of the building smells of burning plastic, and fire and rescue officials have instructed residents within a half-mile radius of GE to shelter in place.
A hazmat crew is monitoring the air on the scene.
According to MetroSafe spokeswoman Jody Duncan, the shelter-in-place was ordered due to heavy smoke and falling ash. In particular, residents with respiratory issues are encouraged to stay indoors.
There now are more than 200 fire and rescue personnel on site from at least 34 companies.
A former GE employee on the scene tells IL, “rain seems like best hope” for putting out the fire still raging at Building 6, which is located a couple hundred yards from the main entrance to Appliance Park on Poplar Level Road.
There’s still no word on the cause of the blaze.
UPDATE at 11 a.m.
Heavy rain is now falling at the scene, and the smoke is becoming lighter in color.
Building 6 appears to have been completely destroyed by the fire.
Mayor Greg Fischer is holding a press conference at MetroSafe to discuss the blaze — now being called a six-alarm fire — as well as flooding throughout the city.
Check out this video from from the scene by Stephen George:
UPDATE at 11:20 a.m.
From Mayor Greg Fischer’s press conference at MetroSafe:
The fire, which started around 7 a.m., so far has been contained to Building 6 but is not yet under control. The cause still has not been determined.
Metro hazmat teams have detected hydrochloric acid gases near the warehouse —
where “plastic materials” were stored — but the plume of smoke does not appear to contain hazardous materials. However, hazmat will continue to test particulates from the smoke.
Mayor Fischer urges anyone within a half-mile radius of the fire — particularly those with respiratory problems — to heed the shelter-in-place warning and remain in their homes for the time being.
UPDATE at 12:46 p.m.
MetroSafe has widened its shelter-in-place order for residents who live close to Appliance Park to 2 miles.
UPDATE at 2:00 p.m.:
MetroSafe has returned the shelter-in-place to 1/2 mile radius of GE Appliance Park.
In addition, Dana Crittendon, president of the IUE-CWA Local 83761, which represents GE line workers, has confirmed to IL that production will be closed at Appliance Park all next week. He says workers will need time to account for supply-chain items lost in the fire, such as wiring harnesses, which were stored in Building 6.
“We’re just trying to regroup and get back on the horn, get more ordered,” he says. “And also this week will give us time to air out the park, keep the environment safe for employees.”
Crittendon also says the more than 3,800 GE workers the union represents will be able to file for unemployment while production is halted.
IL also reached out to Derby Industries, which leases 450,000 square feet of space in Building 6 for supply distribution. The company had no comment.
UPDATE at 3:00 p.m.:
Metro fire officials say the blaze is now contained at Building 6, and they will reduce crews on the scene soon.
GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman issued the following statement:
The fire at GE Appliance Park has been contained. There were no injuries, however building six – a non-production building which warehouses production parts and contains offices for several hundred employees – has extensive damage. Firefighters remain at the scene.
Our first priority today has been to keep people safe and get the blaze under control. We want to thank fire officials and emergency responders for their outstanding service in that regard. We feel very fortunate that due to Good Friday being a holiday for employees that there were limited personnel working in Appliance Park today.
We now are shifting our focus to resuming operations.
Our team already has identified alternate space for the building 6 warehousing operations. And, affected employees will be relocated to other offices.
All production has been cancelled for the balance of today and through next week to replenish the production parts housed in building 6 and to conduct a thorough evaluation of all other buildings. We do not anticipate any disruption for customers.
We appreciate the concern and support we’ve received from across the community.