Crews responding to fire at Highwood USA factory in Rush Township

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RUSH TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Firefighters were on the scene of a fire at a Schuylkill County factory, the smoke could be seen for miles.

The blaze erupted this morning at Highwood USA Factory an outdoor furniture manufacturing plant in Rush Township, Schuylkill County.

Firefighters were putting out hot spots at Highwood USA in Rush Township for hours. Eyewitnesses say the fire was intense.

“It was really intense we started to see the explosions and hear the explosions. We had to go back a little,” said Ralph Virno.

That’s how an Eyewitness describes the early moments of the fire at Highwood USA in Hometown. The company manufactures outdoor furniture.

Firefighters from Schuykill, Carbon, and Luzerne Counties converge on the factory at about 9:30 a.m. and burn intensely for about 4 hours. The smoke could be seen for miles the inferno burned inside the factory and the smell of burning plastic filled the air.

This couple was at the nearby Hometown auction when they saw the smoke.

“It was heavy black smoke and flames were shooting everywhere. I mean 30 yards of things were burning 5 skids something that caught fire,” stated Virno.

In fact, they were stuck near the fire scene for much of the day as firefighters from around the region battled the intense fire.

“A lot of thick black smoke started coming toward us. We were in darkness for about 5 seconds then the wind shifted and cleared us up. Chunks of flamed started floating in the air and thought it would set trees on fire,” said Virno.

The Lapchak’s from Hazleton also got an up-close look at the firefighting effort and were unable to leave the area because of the closed Tide Road.

“The smoke was so intense never saw anything like them. As we came by I saw flames then there was an explosion then maybe 20 seconds later another explosion,” stated Joe Lapchak.

Eyewitnesses say they saw a dumpster located outside the factory burning then saw smoke billowing from inside the building.

Lee Dermo was in Tamaqua several miles away and saw the smoke, “When I looked out from my truck I saw a bunch of black smoke. Mehalshick: What did you think was going on? Dermo: Knowing my guess structure fire When I came up it turned into actually a commercial structure fire.”

Eyewitnesses say they saw employees running from the building.

“The smoke is pretty bad probably worst smoke I smelled in all the fires I go to,” said Joe Kowalchick.

Joe Kowalchick says he too saw the smoke from several miles away and checked it out.

“I heard it on the scanner reported as a warehouse fire. Plastic pallets burning. I did hear that whoever was on scene first hit the second alarm then it went to three alarms,” explained Kowalchick.

Meaning the call went out to firefighters across the region who responded throughout the day to assist in the firefighting efforts.

A spokesperson for the hometown volunteer fire company says they would not be releasing information about the investigation into the fire at least for now.

There are no reported injuries but there is concern about the possible impact on the air quality in this area.

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