Latex Foam reopens two weeks after fires
SHELTON -- The prospect of Latex Foam reopening two weeks after two significant fires was doubtful.
But that's what happened Monday, as many of the company's 150 employees returned to work.
"It was a tremendous undertaking by everyone," said Allen Randolph, owner of SERVPRO of New Haven, Waterbury, the Naugatuck Valley and northern Westchester County which managed the cleanup. "Half of our staff lives in the Valley. We consider the Valley our home turf, so we're proud to have helped save these jobs."
Mayor Mark Lauretti said he drove by the company Monday morning and noticed the parking lot was full.
"This is good news for those who are employed there," the mayor said. "People need to work. They need the paycheck to pay their bills and feed their families."
Attempts to reach officials at Latex Foam by telephone were unsuccessful Monday. The general voicemail box was full and not accepting new calls.
Randolph credited David Fisher, Latex's chief executive officer, and the company's insurance team with providing the necessary resources to get the business back in operation.
Fisher "told us early on that it was his expectation to reopen July 14 and it was our job to do it," Randolph said. "There was never any discussion of failure to meet that goal."
There may not have been any discussion, but there were obstacles, like the second fire which struck just four days after the devastating first one that had required firefighters to pump more than 150,000 gallons of water on the blaze.
It seems black clouds have loomed over Latex Foam, which arose from the ashes of an arson that destroyed its predecessor -- Sponge Rubber Products -- on March 1, 1975. There was also the catastrophic 2001 weeklong fire that consumed the company's Ansonia headquarters, sending the company to its present River Road site. And two company executives are serving federal prison terms for embezzling $3.5 million. And there is the current bankruptcy petition to reorganize $29 million in debts.
The June 26 and 30 fires could have been the final straw.
"We were about 90 percent finished drying the basement when the second fire struck on June 30 at 11 a.m.," Randolph said. "That was a smaller fire and a lot less water was used."
But Randolph's crews, which worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week and at times numbered 170 people, attacked the clean-up in three stages. SERVPRO brought in extra employees from their Rhode Island, New York and Tennessee companies and members of ERS Services in Indiana to clean inside the machinery.
The first cleanup, which began June 26 and ended July 2, involved drying and cleaning the offices. The second, which ended Sunday, involved drying, cleaning and disinfecting rollers, conveyors, presses, machinery, pipes, rollers and conveyors through which the product moves.
The third stage, which is still progressing, involves cleaning non-critical working areas.
During the cleanup, Randolph said, SERVPRO brought in 200 air movers, 17 scissor lifts, a gigantic trailer-based desiccant dryer which removes condensation from compressed air and "a lot of guys with mops and wet-vacs."