1 Dead, 8 Hurt in Fire at Ohio Paint Factory That Caused Several Explosions

Fire crews battling the blaze at Yenkins-Majestic Paints in Ohio early Thursday morning.
Facebook/Columbus Division of Fire

The second-alarm fire that took place at Yenkin-Majestic Paints, located on Leonard Avenue, started around midnight on Thursday..

One person was killed and eight were injured in a massive explosion at a family-owned 101-year-old Ohio paint factory Thursday.

The second alarm fire at Yenkin-Majestic Paints, located on Leonard Avenue, started around midnight on Thursday. Approximately 40 employees were inside the building at the time the fire started. Many were able to evacuate on their own, while others had to be rescued by fire crews. Two employees who had been trapped inside the building and had to be extricated were transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition, the Columbus Division of Fire First Fire Department said in a Facebook post. 

Wendell Light, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was found inside the collapsed building. Fire crews were able to locate his body in the rubble once daylight emerged. Eight other people were taken to area hospitals and were reported to be in stable condition, including the two people initially reported to be in critical condition. The fire was contained by 5:15 a.m., Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The cause of the fire and explosion remains under investigation. Martins said the building will have to be torn down and fire and demolition crews may be on scene for as long as a week, the news outlet reported. 

During the blaze, a series of explosions went off as the fire burned, including one building on the property that was within 100 feet of the primary building that was on fire. The explosion could be heard for miles, according to people in the community. 

Andrew Smith, CEO of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp., said in a statement that they were "deeply saddened" by the explosion and fire,” and was  committed to finding out how the blaze occurred. He said they are working with the Columbus Division of Fire, OSHA and other government agencies to find the cause.

“As a family-owned company, we are focused right now on the family of the deceased, Wendell Light, and the health and well-being of our injured colleagues and their families," Smith stated, who said the company was started in 1920. "Our thoughts are also with our neighbors that were impacted by this incident.”

According to The Columbus Dispatch, records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), safety inspections in 2011, 2012 and 2015 resulted in serious violations and fines being levied against the company, the Dispatch reported. 

A forklift operator died in August 2011 after he reportedly shocked himself. WBNS 10TV reported that the man said he felt fine and did not need medical attention. He later went to his car to smoke a cigarette, and he was found unresponsive. His supervisor administered CPR and used an automated external defibrillator until an ambulance arrived. The man died six days after the incident.

The most serious violations occurred during a 2012 inspection. There were 15 of 16 violations deemed serious by OSHA that the company settled. A six-month long investigation by the Columbus Dispatch 2012 found the paint company had committed 26 violations, 25 of which were serious and classified as instances where “death or serious harm could result.” 

According to the Dispatch, the violations from 2012 were from mixing flammable chemicals together, putting too much pressure on equipment and causing the release of a vapor cloud.

The company’s most recent violation was issued in 2019, but has been resolved, according to 10TV.

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