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Large fire at Sonoco facility

HUTCHINSON, Kansas (From news reports) -- Firefighters were expecting to still be working a fire at Sonoco Friday, after battling blazes at the packaging company for most of the day Thursday.

It took 4 1/2 hours to contain the fire Thursday, according to Hutchinson Fire Chief Steve Beer, who expected the fire department to use millions of gallons of water.

A call came just after 1 p.m. when a fire broke out at the rear of the plant.

Firefighters fought to knock down the flames in the sea of cardboard packages stacked more than 10 feet high. Firefighters reported the blaze was contained around 1:40 p.m. only for the fire to jump inside the nearby warehouse, causing damage to the interior and exterior of the building, Beer said.

Beer said wind carried embers over two hundred yards to a 500-foot square pile of compact cardboard standing 25 feet tall at the front of the building. The department called in all units to assist.

Sonoco employees were evacuated, except for a company fire brigade that used forklifts to remove some of the stacks of cardboard at the rear of the building.

Two engines and firefighters sprayed down the enormous stack of cardboard at the front. The fire department reported the fire was under control again around 5:30 p.m.

The department needed 40 firefighters, in all, to accompany six fire engines, three brush trucks, a ladder truck and mutual aid from the Hutchinson Police Department and the South Hutchinson police and fire departments, Beer said. Even a front end loader and a high-hoe were brought in to break apart the bundles while firefighters sprayed down the pile.

"It's so hot and embedded into this cardboard," Beer said.

The fire chief said the cause is under investigation. No injuries were reported; Beer did not yet know the extent of the damage.

Sonoco is a packaging company that brought in over $4.7 billion in 2016. It employs more than 19,000 people worldwide. More than 100 people work at the Hutchinson location.

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