Company on feet after fire

For the first time in 13 years of day and night use, a food-grade grinding machine at Aloha Medicinals didn't work properly, resulting in a ductwork fire that caused an estimated $45,000 in damage. But the exact problem with the grinder, used to process mushrooms, remains unknown.

The Tuesday evening fire was contained within the ductwork, part of a dust collection system that utilized flammable paper filters, and firefighters had to tear the system apart to put out the blaze.

"It took 40 minutes to tear everything apart to get it put out," Battalion Chief Eric Bero said.

The grinding machine was disassembled, but Dr. John Holliday, president of Aloha Medicinals, said there's no slowdown of activity at the company. He said the grinding operation should be back up within two weeks and Aloha Medicinals can continue to operate now without the grinder, although there could be a slight product backlog.

"We grow, grind, and send out mushrooms," Holliday said. "Even though we can't grind it, we can grow it and dry it."

As to why the machine caused the fire, Holliday said he has no definite idea.

"It's not an electrical fault," he said, adding "I don't think that we'll ever know. We've been doing this day and night for the past 13 years."

The company is reevaluating its safety precautions and operations in light of the fire.

The building was saved because of a quick firefighter response that "just couldn't have been better," Holliday said, adding that the building could have been lost if there had been a delay of only another five minutes in that response.


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