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$5M lost in fire

A fire Tuesday gutted two machine shops inside a building on the 13000 block of Grass Valley Avenue near the Nevada County Airport, leaving an estimated $5 million damage in its wake.

Datum Precision Inc. employee Dennis Harris saw smoke pouring out of the back of the building when he arrived to work at 5:42 a.m.

“The smoke was so thick, I thought there was fog,” Harris said.



Firefighters entered the building through the front door, then noticed the roof was about to give way. Flames were apparently raging in the attic.

“They pulled out, then there was a full structural collapse,” said Tim Fike, Nevada County Consolidated fire chief. “Nobody was hurt. Everybody saw what was happening and got out.”




He said the source of the fire was a computer-controlled machine used to cut metal located inside the portion of the building that housed Datum Precision Inc.

“I haven’t even thought about what I’m going to do about my customers,” said Gary Dodds, 20-year owner of TRI Industries, the other business inside the building. Dodds stood with his friends outside the blackened, soggy building, his brow furrowed and soot on his hands. “I have customers who are relying on us.”

Dodds and his family make plastic parts for various purposes, using the process of injection molding. He estimates the damage to his inventory and shop at about $600,000.

Most of the $5 million in damage, said Fike, was sustained by Datum Precision Inc., a company that makes metal parts for motorcycles and aircraft.

The fire moved through the attic toward Dodds’ side of the building, dropping debris all over his injection-molding machines, each worth $10,000 to $30,000. He believes he’ll be able to salvage those machines, while his inventory was a total loss.

While Dodds’ business is more of a mom-and-pop operation, Datum Precision employs several workers, none of whom need to worry about their next paycheck.

“We’ll keep everyone working,” said Datum Precision Inc. co-owner Howard Carte, rubbing his shaved head, staring at the demolished building and clutching a clipboard. “We’ll relocate. We can’t shut down. We have customers.”

Another building across the street from the fire contained more equipment for Datum Precision Inc. which was not damaged.

Both business owners met with representatives from their insurance companies at the scene of the fire Tuesday.

Fike said further investigation will determine exactly what went wrong with the computerized machine.

Firefighters from the Grass Valley Fire Department, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Ophir Hill Fire Protection District, Nevada City Fire Department, Penn Valley Fire Protection District responded to the blaze, along with a CalFIRE prison crew.

“Everyone jumped on this really fast,” Dodds said. “The fire department did a wonderful job.”

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To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robyn@the union.com or call 477-4236.


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