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Fire at Arkay Packaging plant sends two to the hospital

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BOTETOURT COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Two people are recovering after a fire at a major packaging plant in Botetourt County on Tuesday night.

At 5:34 p.m., Botetourt County Fire & EMS responded to the fire at the Arkay Packaging plant. Initial arriving units found the building to be evacuated and smoke conditions present from the manufacturing facility.

Crews say the fire came into contact with hazardous chemicals that are at the plant. Hazmat crews were still on-scene late Tuesday night cleaning up.

Botetourt Battalion Chief Andrew Moore says they're thinking right now the fire started in a printing press in the middle of the building.

Arkay creates paper boxes used for packaging.

The company says nothing like this has ever happened before.

"We're lucky that we have a station right at the end of our street," said Arkay HR Manager Kim Crawford.

Crawford says crews arrived in minutes of the fire that sent two employees to the hospital.

"A little bit before six o'clock, we heard a loud sound and a small fire erupted," said Crawford.

"There's a press in the middle of the building that we believe is where the fire broke out, that's where we handled the extinguishment," said Moore.

Moore says it took the four localities that responded around half an hour to get the blaze under control.

"Roanoke City Ladder 2, those guys went on top of the roof up there and accessed one of the access panels on the roof. That will let some of that smoke draw out of the building, lets the fire attack crews see what's going on down on the floor level a little easier," said Moore.

When crews made it inside, they found a bigger concern.

"There were two hazardous chemicals that we were concerned with. There's no exposure risk to the community. We do have state hazmat crews that are on the way and on-scene currently that are handling that situation," said Moore.

Crawford says as soon as the fire broke out, the company evacuated all employees from the building.

"They have some personal belongings, luckily that's all that's in there and everyone is safe," said Crawford.

She says the company will likely not be asking its employees to return to work Wednesday.

"We do not want to have anyone in harm's way so we will not allow employees to come back on site until that has been completely cleared," said Crawford.

Moore says crews plan to be out most of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning making sure the scene is safe and neither of the hazardous chemicals leave the building. The Regional Hazardous Materials Team, as well as representatives from Virginia Department of Emergency Management, are on site to assist with mitigating any further hazards.

He says the two employees who were burned in the fire are in stable condition.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.