Danedri Thompson
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Fire investigators suspect lightning is to blame for a fire at the Unilever manufacturing plant at New Century.
Firefighters from Johnson County Fire District No. 1 responded to a two-alarm fire call at the plant, located at 27080 W. 159th Street, at 7:44 p.m. on Sunday, April 13.
Fire chief Rob Kirk said flames were shooting up on the roof when firefighters arrived on the scene.
“When the initial crews got there, it looked pretty bad with flames shooting up,” Kirk said. “But they got up there and got it under control pretty quickly.”
Construction crews were working on the building, when the fire started. The plant is in the process of undergoing a $152 million expansion. When complete, the addition will add 447,929 square feet to existing plant, increasing its local footprint by 50 percent.
The plant employs 168 people locally. Operating 24-hours-per-day, the local staff manufacture 1.3 million tubs of Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Brummel and Brown, and Imperial brand vegetable spreads each day.
Sunday’s fire occurred on the new addition to the building, but Kirk said the damage appeared to be limited to a small section of the roof.
Fire investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire. However, Kirk said it was likely lightning. The fire occurred during strong thunderstorms. No one was injured in the blaze.