Look back at Praegitzer fire

30 years later, employees are invited to sort-of reunion

DALLAS — It was Aug. 13, 1987, when Praegitzer Industries went up in flames.

The circuit-board manufacturer employed 220 people. Being one of the largest industrial employers in Dallas, the fire was devastating to the town.

Now, then-facilities manager Eric Rogers is planning a reunion for those affected.

He remembers that fateful night 30 years ago.

“The fire started at about 8 in the evening on the 13th,” Rogers said. “I was at home and lived up on Reed Lane. I hopped in my car and could see a pillar of smoke. It looked like a smokestack on a battleship.”

Remembering the Praegitzer Industries fire of 1987

A “fire reunion” will be held on Saturday and Sunday for all the employees and businesses affected by the massive industrial fire that destroyed Praegitzer Industries in 1987.

The reunion will include a bring-your-own picnic from noon until 4 p.m. at the new side of Dallas City Park on Saturday. A golf outing is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. at Cross Creek Golf Course. A brunch will be on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Eola Hills Wine Cellars, Rickreall. RSVP for brunch: 503-623-2405.

For more information: eric.rogers1947@g....

Dallas City Councilor Bill Hahn, then-firefighter, recalled that the department was on drill that Thursday night.

“There had been numerous alarm calls prior to the incident,” he said. “So while we were on drill, the alarm came in. The assistant chief and myself drove out that direction thinking it was going to be another alarm sounding. When we turned onto the Monmouth Highway, we noticed a big, black column of smoke coming from the center of the building.”

Rogers said he spent the night directing firefighters and volunteer firefighters who were not familiar with the layout of the plant.

“That evening was pretty much a blur,” he said. “It was just panic time. They were trying to save the administration building, because it was the furthest point from the start of the fire. The firefighters did a pretty good job about minimizing — or at least trying — to keep it from being a total loss.”

It took a number of days for Hahn and the fire chief, the state fire marshal and the city of Dallas to determine the cause of the fire: a faulty immersion heater in a chemical tank.

The building was a total loss, with an estimated $30 million in damage, Rogers said.

Rogers said the reunion isn’t really a celebration, but more of a remembrance of the fire and the effect it had on the town and the 220 employees at the time.

“For most of us, it was a traumatic event,” he said.

The building was reopened a year later, and roughly 180 employees returned to work, Rogers said.

“Bob (Praegitzer) told reporters we’ll be back in business,” Rogers recalled. “We won all kinds of awards on the rebuild. It was an adventuresome time. A lot of new people came on. A lot of people went on to other ventures. … We need to celebrate that and reminisce and move on.”

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