ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Rochester firefighters battled a complex fire Saturday night that caused an estimated $40,000 in damage at the Kemps ice cream factory.
The Rochester Fire Department responded to a report of a fire in the freezer area shortly before 6:40 p.m. at the plant at 406 N. Broadway. Battalion Chief Kris Jungels said the origin of the fire was a stack of pallets and cardboard under a catwalk where a contractor was welding. Twenty-two firefighters worked until 11:15 p.m. to stop the fire that moved through the massive freezer area.
"They soon recognized that the conveyor system had provided a means for the fire to move throughout the massive freezer area," said Deputy Chief Steven Belau. "Burning material had traveled along the conveyor."
Belau said the air temperature in the freezer area was -40 degrees.
"Firefighters had to be relieved a number of times because of water freezing on their facepieces and firefighting coats, pants and gloves," Belau said. "Many had over a half of inch of ice covering them when they exited which is like encasing them in a layer of inflexible plastic."
Belau said the smoke generated by the fire is called "cold smoke." Cold smoke does not rise, it tends to be extraordinarily dense and heavy so it falls to floor level.
"In this case the cold smoke from the fire filled the entire freezer room making it impossible to see," Belau said. "Firefighters used a search rope to crawl through the room trying to find the fire with their infra red thermal imaging camera that can see heat."
Firefighters had to disassemble the rubber belt conveyor system by hand looking for lingering material that was still burning.
Belau said the fire may have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage due to the production line shut down and lost ice cream.
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