Fire causes little damage at Sapa Extrusions plant

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Moisture in the molten metal bed caused a flash at Sapa Extrusions in Delhi, catching aluminum oxide and dust on girders to catch fire Saturday evening.

Richland Parish firefighters and deputies responded to the fire.

Plant manager Ron Ballman said firefighters planned to extinguish the fire with foam. Electrical power and gas service to the plant were cut off as a precaution.

Ballman said it was hard to tell Saturday evening how the fire would interrupt plant operations, if at all, but he said he believes there was no structural or electrical damage to the plant.

No one was injured in the fire, Ballman said.

Sapa employees 338 workers, making it the largest private sector employer in Richland Parish.

The company invested $2.5 million to improve operations in its cast house, where Sapa recycles aluminum into aluminum logs. Production there has increased more than 20 percent. And it recently completed a $500,000 expansion to its anodizing line, where products like window and door frames are finished with an oxidized shine that includes various colors. Capacity there has increased 15 to 20 percent.

Earlier this month, Gov. Bobby Jindal hosted a news conference to celebrate the turnaround of Sapa Extrusion as part of his statewide tour.

Once teetering near collapse, Sapa has seen a remarkable about-face after partnering with the state to open a production line in Delhi. The $3 million capital investment from the state has yielded an increase of 101 new direct jobs at the plant and an estimated 177 new indirect jobs for the area.

Jindal called the plant's growth a "great success story" and said the Sapa leadership "under-promised and over-delivered" on its commitment to add more jobs in the region.

The Sapa Group operates in three continents and has 16 plants in the United States and Canada. State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said the Delhi plant employees people from numerous parishes in northeastern Louisiana, particularly Richland and Ouachita parishes.

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