Hundreds of casual workers at Lomolo Sisal Factory in Makongeni, Rongai in Nakuru County are staring at job losses after fire destroyed more than 400 tonnes of processed sisal.
The Monday fire, whose cause is yet to be established, started at the company’s production unit and injured a man on the face and arm as he rushed to save a tractor from burning.
The fire also reduced the already processed sisal to ashes and destroyed two lorries and a tractor which had been parked outside the factory.
The unit’s Production Manager Brian Lagat said the injured man was rushed to Rongai Sub-County Hospital for treatment.
Workers who spoke to Business Daily said their personal belongings including phones, jackets and shoes were also burnt.
“About 60 workers were busy doing their jobs when the fire started abruptly at about 1pm. Most of us were caught unawares because all the machines were off at that time,” said Mr Stephen Wanyonje Otieno, a supervisor.
Mr Otieno noted that the fire broke out from a far corner outside the busy unit and rapidly spread to the partly open building where all processed sisal products are stored.
“Most of the workers, especially women, narrowly escaped being hurt. Within seconds, the whole unit was up in flames. Nothing was saved,” Mr Otieno added.
Mr Lagat said the company is counting losses of more than Sh200 million.
“It is a big blow to us and we are hoping that the cause of the fire will soon be established. We cannot say it was due to an electric fault because no machine in the unit was running during at that time,” he said.
Mr Lagat said that machines at the processing unit usually start operations at 2pm every day.
When the Business Daily visited the factory, workers were still pouring water on the burnt sisal which was still emitting smoke.
Rongai Sub-County Police Commander Bernard Rotich said investigations into the matter have been launched.
He noted that security has been beefed up at the factory.
“The incident has shocked everybody including the police since it is the first to be experienced at this factory. We are collaborating with the office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to ensure that the cause of the fire is known. From there we shall issue directions,” Mr Rotich said.
The factory, which was started in 1962, produces 14 tonnes of sisal and fibre daily.
It is the only sisal processing factory in the Rift Valley.
It exports its products to West Africa, European and Arab countries.