Pepsi investigates fire at NJ plant that supplies local Mountain Dew, Aquafina
PISCATAWAY — An investigation is underway into the cause of a fire at the Pepsi production facility.
The fire started outside the plant on New Brunswick Avenue around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The flames climbed up the exterior walls and went underneath the roof, affecting the interior fire suppression system, Mayor Brian Wahler told New Jersey 101.5.
The plant, which Wahler estimated employs "well over 100 people," had a skeleton crew on Wednesday morning.
Two firefighters from among the 29 fire companies and first responder squads that responded to the fire were injured and hospitalized. One suffered heat exhaustion while inside the building and the second suffered a shoulder injury, according to the mayor, who said both were released on Tuesday night.
The factory is the primary supplier of Mountain Dew in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, along with Aquafina water and several brands of ice tea, according to Wahler. It has been in Piscataway for three decades.
Pepsi on Tuesday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for information about the impact of the fire on the supply of their products.
Helping a good corporate neighbor
Wahler said the township's engineering and departments will work with Pepsico to expedite whatever repairs and renovations are needed to get the factory back up to full capacity. He said bottling is done during the day and early evening then loaded onto trucks during the overnight.
"There's a lot of employees out there and I want to make sure those jobs get back on track," Wahler said.
He also said Pepsi has been a good corporate neighbor and wants to return the favor.
"They've helped out tremendously with fundraisers and social service groups between the employees and the corporate level," Wahler said. "Pepsi's been there when we've lost water throughout the town or during catastrophes. They've supplied bottled water and other things to the township."
Training pays off
Wahler credited Pepsico's routine safety drills for employees as the reason the 30 employees inside at the time of the fire were all safely evacuated.
"Pepsico practices safety procedures and evacuations all the time at the plant. Things like that actually work," Wahler said.
"Everybody worked seamlessly out on the scene. All these years of training exercises for large events such as this actually paid off Tuesday night and everybody knew what they were supposed to do. That doesn't happen too often in government," Wahler said.
PepsiCo said in a statement late Tuesday that, "all employees and people who were in the facility have been evacuated with no injuries,” adding that details of how the fire started will be investigated.
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Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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