06 October 2009

A Local Tragedy

Yesterday there was a tremendous fire at the Irapuato Ciudad Industrial (see-yoo-DAHD een-doost-ree-AHL), the industrial park where I work. Fortunately for our company, the shop and the employees were in no imminent danger because we are located at least a thousand meters from the site of the fire. Unfortunately, however, for two other companies and their employees it was a nightmare. The fire started at a company called "La Gloria" that manufactures candles made of paraffin wax. It employs about four hundred and fifty people. The fire apparently started at one of the large kettles that holds the melted paraffin from which the paraffin wax is poured into candle mold machines.

The plant personnel tried to extinguish the fire themselves but were quickly overcome and they called the local fire department. By the time the fire department arrived all of the employees had been evacuated and the fire was an all consuming conflagration. It soon spread to another company named "Procemex" that makes ceramic toilets and employs another three hundred and fifty people. It took the fire departments from Irapuato and eleven neighboring cities and towns about twelve hours at least to extinguish the fire. There were units from León, Silao, Guanajuato, Abasolo, Pénjamo, Salamanca, Cortazar, Celaya, Juventino Rosas, Valle de Santiago, and the PEMEX refinery of Salamanca. There were no fatalities but several firefighters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion and one firefighter suffered a leg injury when a wall collapsed.

When we first heard of the fire my boss called all of the management people together and put in place an emergency plan to evacuate our people should that be necessary. Since many of our employees come to work on bicycles we made sure that everyone would have a ride with those of us who have automobiles or motor scooters. In the end we didn't have to implement the emergency plan but my boss closed the shop early as a precaution and sent everyone home. As I was leaving I passed as close to the scene of the fire as I thought prudent and I took several photos that you can see below. This morning when I came to work the ruins were still smoldering and the air smelled like burning candles.

The real tragedy is that at least five hundred people if not more have lost their livelihood. Most of the people from the candle factory live close by in a little village named "San Antonio El Chico" or as we affectionately refer to it, "San Antonito". I am afraid that there will be slim pickings indeed in San Antonito for Christmas this year. The other company, the toilet factory, was only partially destroyed so there is hope that not all of the jobs will be lost. It will be a long, long time, however, until this area gets back on its feet. The candle factory has been a mainstay of the local community for ages.


10 comments:

glorv1 said...

How terrible. Luckily no one was hurt other than smoke inhalation. I really feel back for those who will have no work in the upcoming weeks. It will be hard, sorry to hear about this.

Constantino said...

Sad that catastrophic fires impact many livelihoods, I am sure that the community will come together and carry through...
Glad to hear that it will not impact your employer.

Nancy said...

That is terrible. You don't think the candle place will close down entirely, do you?

I know Irapuato has a fair bit of industry, could it possibly absorb these people?

My fingers are crossed.

Bob Mrotek said...

Nancy,
Times are tough. I think that the candle factory is a total loss and if it comes back it won't come back soon. There are so many people who need jobs that all I have to do is stick my hand out the door and wave it to get a dozen applicants. Right now there are millions of people either falling through the cracks or who are about to. May the Lord have mercy on Mexico.

Calypso said...

Bob - Selfishly I am really glad you are OK - we need you around here.

Sad to read of the plight of many becoming unemployed. As Nancy suggests - perhaps they will get the operation back up and running.

As you suggest we can pray for that.

Tulum Living said...

I am so sorry to hear this. I am so glad that no one was killed and that the fire was able to be contained eventually. Times are so hard right now that these types of blows totally tip the scales. I hope that some shinning light is at the end of the tunnel ahead.

Bob Mrotek said...

Thank you everyone for the kind comments. Things like this fire and the recent flooding in various communities remind us that we are all in this life together and that we should maintain "Solidarity with Heaven and Earth"...my new mantra.

Amanda said...

Im so glad to hear no one was physically hurt. Im sure who ever owned the place wont have enough money to get it going to soon but we will pray for that possibility. What a horrible thing to happen when things are already so tough on working families.

Suzanne said...

Bob - first I totally misread this and thought it was the gloria 'candy' (spelled candie) factory.
I was so confused because I love those candies and couldn't believe they were made out of paraffin wax!

I had to go back and read it again - to realize it was candles, not candies - I guess we see what we want to see -- like those really great glorias candies.

anyway, not to detract from how terrible this fire must have been and the consequences for the workers and their families. If there are any efforts from here that I can help with just let me know what is being needed and I'll do whatever I can.

Bob Mrotek said...

Amanda & Suzanne,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. The reason that I wrote about this tragedy was to put it in our collective conscience so as to shed some positive energy on the situation in the form of prayer or perhaps awareness of the plight of these people. Just to know that others empathize is a help.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.