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Werner & Son recovers from fire

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SUPPRESSION: A Lebanon Fire Department aerial ladder truck sprays water from above to help Frankfort firefighters battlethe fire at Werner & Son Inc. on July 29 at 600 W. Kyger St. in Frankfort.
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EQUIPPED: Troy Werner (center, red shirt) speaks to his son, Casey, as the straps are taken off Werner & Son Inc.'s new industrial baler.
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DEVASTATION: Frankfort firefighters were on location for more than 12 hours when Werner & Son burned late last month.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Troy Werner and his son, Casey, looked on Friday afternoon as a crane lifted their new industrial baler off a semitrailer just south of McKinley Avenue in Frankfort. The impressive piece of equipment represents the latest step in Werner & Son Inc.'s process of ramping back up to speed after the July 29 fire destroyed the local recycling company's facility at 600 W. Kyger St. in Frankfort.

“It was quite a shock to have that kind of devastation. It got everything,” Troy Werner said. “Our primary concern right off the bat was (making sure) nobody was hurt and to make sure that our employees were taken care of.

“We regrouped and were fortunate enough to have some other properties here we could relocate to, so we have people back to work,” he continued. “We had the fire on Monday, they were off Tuesday, we had a team meeting on Wednesday, and Thursday we were back to work. We have a few of our sort line people that are laid off because our short line burned, but we look to have them back online within the next two weeks and at least have everybody back to work.”

According to Werner, the local recycling company will be back up to100 percent of its previous capacity once everything is set on McKinley Avenue.

“By the time we are done, we will be a little bit bigger and more efficient than we were to start with,” he said. “With the new equipment like this coming in, we will be much better, much faster and much more efficient.”

The shiny new baler helps that improvement.

“It is a new machine that is a little bit bigger and a little better than what we had,” Casey said. “Like dad said – you hope everything is a little more efficient and we are a little better in our operation. This should be the first step in getting us there.”

While Troy and Casey work to get back to business as usual, the fire investigation continues.

“We have two different insurance companies that have investigators involved, and our investigator is involved,” Frankfort Fire Department Chief Jon Kirby said. “The three entities are going through there to try to figure it out.”

Cleanup efforts at the 64,000 square-foot facility cannot begin until the investigation concludes, and the FFD has returned to the site four times since the initial 12-hour effort to knock down the inferno.

“They were there a good 12 hours fighting the fire, and we have gone back numerous times and hit hot spots that reignited over the last week or so,” Kirby said. “The other morning they were out there at 5 a.m. That was a neighbor that called that in. It was a fairly large flare-up, but it has been a few days since we have been out there, so hopefully they are done.

“After a fire like that, our battalion chiefs go for a drive to scope it out their selves as well,” Kirby added. “Obviously, we don't want anything to flare back up where we are back out there to fight another big blaze. So, they drive up, get out of their vehicle and walk around for a few minutes to make sure everything is OK out there.” ”

Until cleanup efforts are well underway, Werner is unsure how he will use the property on Kyger St.

“We will wait and see,” he said. “We want to get cleaned up on Kyger Street and see what the cement floor looks like. This very well could be the new home (on McKinley Avenue).

“We still have a scale that is at the other site,” Werner added. “We have 11 acres there which is a big plus. But, with an old building like it was, it had some differences in floor levels and things that we worked around. If we are going to start from scratch, we are not going to work around anything. We are going to put it back the way we want it and eliminate the things that we fought for a long time. I am not ready to say it is going to all be here at McKinley or it is all going to be at Kyger Street. In the short term, it is going to be here because we have buildings that we are able to use right now, and we will go from there.”

Werner says he has partnered with the city to help the street department process recycling until his site at McKinley Avenue is ready to resume the services his company has been contracted to provide.

“I put three of my sort people at the street department to help them and provide them with some good, skilled sort people to help them with their process,” he said. “It could be a month or two before I have sort line set up and the building set up. We are starting from scratch, so I am not going to throw mediocre equipment in here. I am going to make our system better, faster and more efficient. We have plans right now. There is another building going here, and it has already been estate plan approved. We are waiting on approval of our drainage plan right now. As soon as the drainage plan is OK'd.

“I would like to thank the community, our customers, our employees, Frankfort City Light and Power, Skiles Electric – so many people have offered us help. Winski Brothers and Wampler have been fantastic,” he added. “We have had such a great support staff from the community to help get us going. My phone has rung nonstop from local people who have offered to help us and get us going and back up to speed. There are s many people that I can't name them all. Our buildings needed some specific electrical work, and that can take time and isn't very fast, but City Light and Power has been on the spot and has done everything we have asked for, I could not have asked for anything better.”