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Fire breaks out at coke plant

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ASHLAND -- A building at the closed AK Steel coke plant caught on fire Monday afternoon, causing the Ashland Fire Department to call in neighboring fire departments from Westwood and England Hill to assist.

"The building was slated for demolition," said Ashland Fire Chief Scott Penick. A crew hired by the Middletown, Ohio, company was working in the area, he said.

"(The contracted employees) were cutting openings getting it ready for demolition," Penick said. "There's no way to put it out, so the best option is to let it burn."

"There is no immediate risk to the neighborhood," Penick added.

The fire appeared to be contained to two smokestacks. Flames steadily burned from one, while smoke barreled out of the other.

Ashland Fire Department officials remained on scene throughout the night as the fire burned, although an exact cause was not determined.

AK Steel signed a contract last fall with NCM Demolition and Redemption of Charlotte, N.C., to tear the plant down, according to Barry L. Racey, an AK Steel spokesman. The company specializes in industrial demolition, he said.

The work has been under way about two months and will continue through mid-2013.

The plant shut down last year, putting about 100 company employees out of work. The closure in 2011 also affected about 250 contract employees. A number of employees transferred to the separate AK Steel plant.

The former coke plant is located north of the CSX Transportation railroad lines and adjacent to the Ohio River. Company records show the site off Winchester Avenue has 138 acres.