Fire at Cameron Clay Products

Wheeling Intelligencer
November 17, 1964

Official Promises Early Decision of Fate of Fire-Gutted Cameron Industry

The president of Sikeston Ceramics Inc., parent firm of the Cameron Clay Products plant that burned to the ground Sunday, indicated a decision on the future of the plant would be forthcoming soon.

Harold Roman, president of the Chicago firm, said yesterday "I just don't know about the rebuilding. There are not enough facts available at present to make a statement." He added, however, that as soon as they are able to assess the extent of the loss they will make a decision and announce it immediately.

The urgency of such a decision was indicated when Roman told of the orders which were piled up waiting for the modernized Cameron plant to start producing.

He explained that it would be almost impossible under the present circumstances to fill all the orders, pointing to the fact that another plant at Sikeston, Missouri, had burned down earlier this year and that the firm's other plant at Marysville, Ky., already was so pressed for orders it could not handle any additional demands.

Accordingly, he repeated, "We will make a decision just as soon as possible and you can be assured we will let the people of your area know of our plans immediately."

The full extent of the loss from the spectacular fire still was not known late last night. William Chandler, plant superintendent, explained it was impossible to judge just how much the machinery and equipment had been damaged as it was still too hot to enter the ruins.

Roman said not only did he not know the full extent of the damage, but further he did not know the full extent of insurance coverage.

He said however that at a meeting Monday afternoon of the insurance brokers involved, it would appear the fire "may be adequately covered."

Roman said the appraised replacement value of the 100 by 300 foot plant (constructed some 50 years ago and purchased by Sikeston just this summer) represented values "so astronomical I would hate to quote a figure."

He revealed that he had received numerous telephone calls and telegrams from interested persons, including an offer from Sen. Jennings Randolph for any aid he could offer including federal assistance in an Area Redevelopment Authority loan.

The Sikeston president, however, said it would be impossible at this time even to consider that.

The new industry was expected to be the lifeblood that would breathe prosperity back into Cameron.

Mayor William L. Johnson who had cooperated with a group of businessmen in attracting new industry to the area, said the Clay Products plant would have been Cameron's largest employer within the next six months.

At the time of the fire, the firm had employed 40 persons, mostly in the modernization work. However, the figure had been expected to reach the 200 mark in 1965. The first order of ceramic lamp bases at the plan had been completed last week and were awaiting pickup at the time of the fire.

Chandler yesterday said he doubted that there had been a[n] explosion, first thought to have started the fire.

He said he believed the roof had become overheated because one of the ceramic kilns [words missing?] and burst into flame. The fire was encouraged because the company recently had put 13,000 pounds of tar on the roof to make it leak-proof.

Business and Industry

West Virginia Archives and History