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Ford Fire Slows Production

February 2, 1999

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. scrambled to bring in generators Tuesday and get its River Rouge complex back in operation after a deadly explosion halted work there and slowed production at other Ford plants around the country.

River Rouge contains a Mustang assembly plant as well as parts factories that make such things as engines, doors, hoods and glass. If production doesn’t resume quickly, work will be slowed at 16 of the No. 2 automaker’s 20 North America assembly plants.

The explosion at a power station Monday killed one person. Fifteen other workers remained in critical condition Tuesday. The cause of the blast was under investigation, but authorities suspected a boiler explosion.

Many of the 10,000 workers at River Rouge awaited word on when they could return to work. Ford assembly plants in several other cities were also asked to scale back production.

River Rouge manager Art Janes wouldn’t speculate on when production at the complex might resume. ``I just can’t tell you until we push the button and see if it works,″ he said.

In trying to get at least part of the complex restarted, Ford hauled in six generators at its key stamping plant and four at its engine plant.

An automotive analyst said Ford, like other automakers, has a contingency plan to get parts from outside suppliers. That could minimize the production slowdowns.

``I foresee really no impact on Ford’s earnings,″ said Richard Hilgert of First of Michigan.

On Tuesday, the explosion’s effects were becoming more evident at Ford production sites elsewhere.

Ford cut the eight-hour shifts to four hours at its suburban Detroit plant in Wayne, where Escorts are built; at the Wixom plant, where the Town Car and Lincoln Continental are made; and at its assembly plant at Lorain, Ohio, where Ford Econoline vans are made.

Three other plants _ in Kansas City, Mo., Norfolk, Va., and Oakville, Ontario _ that largely make Ford F-150 series trucks also were ordered to halt overtime shifts.

The 1,100-acre River Rouge complex was once the world’s largest auto plant. Henry Ford built it in 1918 because he dreamed of building a car from start to finish in one location.

At its peak in the 1940s, 85,000 people worked at the plant in Dearborn, about seven miles west of Detroit.

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