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<B>Firefighters walk through a flurry of snow after responding Friday to an incident at the Oak-Mitsui factory in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. (Peter Crabtree)</B>
Friday January 13, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- A fire at the Oak-Mitsui Inc. plant on First Street was knocked down Thursday before the flames had a chance to spread.

A mechanical failure caused the initial alarm to go out at roughly 10 a.m. Thursday morning according to Hoosick Falls Fire Chief Robert Bornt. He said the fire was caused by an overheating pump on a laminate press, located in a manufacturing space in the rear of the building at 80 First St.

Oak-Mitsui began operations in Hoosick Falls in 1977 as one of the first U.S. production sites of copper foils for use in printed electric circuit boards. Now a subsidiary of Mitsui Kinzoku, the world's largest manufacturer of copper foils, the company since moved its headquarters to Camden, S.C., but continues to manufacture circuit board laminates in Hoosick.

According to Bornt, the pump caught on fire and caused a leak of "heat transfer fluid" -- similar to what's present in a residential boiler system -- prompting fears that the fluid might ignite. It did not, and aside from some ruined insulation, Bornt said there was no extension of the fire into the rest of the building. He said firefighters used dry extinguishers and had a Class B foam on standby because of the potential for unknown chemicals inside the manufacturing facility. There were no hazardous materials present and plant operators would be doing clean-up, according to Bornt.

But because of the potential for chemicals and the fact that each area fire department is an all-volunteer outfit, Bornt said the call went out to a bevy of surrounding fire departments from Hoosick, Johnstown, and also Bennington, Vt., with some 30 to 40 firefighters responding all told.

"Everyone is short on manpower," necessitating the call to additional departments to ensure enough responders on the scene, Bornt said.