By JOHN BORGOLINI
JOHNSTOWN - Fire broke out on the third floor of the Carville National Leather factory on Knox Avenue late Saturday afternoon, the third blaze at the facility since August 2009.
Johnstown firefighters are shown at the scene of a fire Saturday evening at Carville National Leather. (Photo by Bill Trojan/The Leader-Herald)
Smoke billows from the roof of the building as firefighters on a ladder truck work to ventilate it. (Photo by Bill Trojan/The Leader-Herald)
Firefighters from Johnstown, Gloversville and Mohawk were at the scene Saturday evening as smoke billowed out the building on the city's west side.
Most of the flames were put out shortly after the firefighters arrived, and the responders went up to the third floor to completely extinguish the fire just before 7 p.m.
"We're not sure of the extent of the damage in there right now ... we're trying to get the fire totally out right now and find out what's going on," city Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said.
He said the building presents a challenge to firefighters because of its design and construction.
"It's a solid concrete building, so it's like a Dutch oven. It holds the heat in," Heberer said. "As you can see, there are very small windows on the floors, and we have one big vent window on the north side of the building. Other than that, it's really hard to get the heat out of."
Heberer there wasn't much concern about industrial chemicals in the building, because most of the products used in the leather-finishing operation are water-soluble.
In February 2010, a less serious fire did some damage in the basement of the Carville facility. A previous fire damaged equipment on the third floor in August 2009.
The building on the city's west side has a prominent place in Johnstown history, as it is the former Knox Gelatine Factory, a major employer and economic engine for the community through much of the 20th century.
Hugh Carville, the father of current company President Bobby Carville, founded the business about 45 years ago. Bobby Carville was at the scene Saturday evening. He declined to comment on the situation.
The Carville family was awarded the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry's Family Business Award in January.