WALBURG, Texas (KXAN) — Nearly 40 people are in search of a job after a chemical plant fire earlier this month.
CPI Products, a plastic fabrication company, went up in flames two weeks ago.
“My mom’s family founded Walburg in the 1800s,” said Cindy Belk. “We’ve had this shop since 1927. People come in here to get serviced, get drinks or just stop by and chat.”
Belk’s jack-of-all-trades shop has seen many faces over the years. Several of her customers worked at CPI Products.
“We just looked across the field… the fire was just two miles from here,” said Belk.
Fire officials say the Sept. 10 fire was one of the largest they’ve seen in the Walburg area.
“It was hard times to start, and then we had this,” said General Manager of CPI Products Chris Jones. “We’re just trying to understand what happened, if there’s anything salvageable or anything we can do.”
As of result of the fire, Jones had to furlough 40 of his employees.
“We’ve got employees that have been with us for almost 20 years. It’s been a lot of people’s homes for a long time. I worry about people making ends meet,” he said.
The Texas Workforce Commission says all of the employees who have been furloughed would be eligible for unemployment plus additional CARES Act benefits.
“We definitely would encourage anyone facing a layoff to quickly file for unemployment insurance benefits, but would also note that our workforce solutions offices, particularly Rural Capital Area, provide a wide variety of services to help people looking for new jobs,” said James Bernsen with the Texas Workforce Commission.
“That compassion hits. I want these employees to know that we are here for them,” said Belk.
The plan for CPI Products is to rebuild, but in the meantime Belk is doing what she can to raise money for them. Her GoFundMe has raised $2,200 so far.
“My hope is that everybody finds the greatest job right now and won’t be here for me later,” said Jones. “We look forward to having a place for all of our employees in the future, but it’s going to take some time.”
The Williamson County Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the cause of the fire, and CPI Products has hired an additional private fire investigator.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has an ongoing investigation as well, focused on cleanup and hazard mitigation efforts at the site.
CPI Products has installed a fence around the perimeter to control any storm water runoff from the burned facility.