Welding torch ignites Nikiski business

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Thick, black smoke filled the sky Tuesday afternoon as flames shot through the roof of the R&K Industrial maintenance building just off Kenai Spur Highway at Thunder Road in Nikiski.

No one was injured in the blaze.

The fire apparently started when a welder turned off his welding torch, set it down to begin doing some grinding work and suddenly noticed a flash as the acetylene torch somehow reignited, according to company safety manager Brad Hill.

The welder had been cutting plate steel in the oilfield-service company's welding shop.

Hill said the extremely hot fire quickly spread to some wood-supported shelving above the area where the welding was being done, and then caught the wood-frame building on fire, burning through the roof. He was unable to estimate the amount of damage.

The welder and about 19 other employees in the building at the time all escaped safely.

The 40-by-80-foot building housed the company's vehicle maintenance and welding shops, the safety department office and offices for the receiving department, the general manager and dispatching. The fire appeared to have spared the safety office.

Hill said the Nikiski Fire Department responded within minutes of the early-afternoon blaze and fire alarms sounded throughout the office areas, but administrative employees already had evacuated the building. The fire was called in at 12:56 p.m., according to 911 dispatchers in Soldotna.

Nikiski Fire Chief Daniel Gregory said one engine, three tankers and one rescue truck from Nikiski responded to the fire. Units from the Kenai Fire Department and Alaska State Troopers responded as well.

The company, which employs 50 people, has not experienced any prior fires, according to Hill.

A paint shop and equipment washing shop also are at the Thunder Road location. They were not involved in the fire.

Owned by Robert Peterkin II and Mike O'Toole, R&K Industrial also has administrative offices in the Economic Development District office complex about one-fourth mile from the shops.

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