COLUMBIA, MO. — A fire in a rice cake processing machine damaged a Quaker Oats facility owned by PepsiCo, Inc. in Columbia on Dec. 3.

According to a release issued by the Columbia Fire Department, firefighters responded to the scene at 6.32 a.m. to find smoke coming from the south end of the 110,000-square-foot building. Employees at the plant attempted to extinguish the fire with handheld fire extinguishers but evacuated the building when they determined the fire was progressing beyond the capabilities of the extinguishers.

“PepsiCo’s emergency response procedures worked very well,” said John Metz, battalion chief for the fire department. “They simultaneously called 9-1-1, evacuated other occupants, used handheld extinguishers while the fire was small and recognized when it was time to get out. This is also a great example of how fast, effective and efficient automatic sprinkler systems are. Residential as well as commercial buildings can benefit from the protection they provide. Without the sprinkler system, today’s fire would have been devastating.”

The fire department said a damage estimate was not available, and the business was closed for about two hours while the firefighters removed smoke from the building.

“The health and safety of our employees is our first priority, and we are thankful that all are safe and accounted for,” Quaker said. “Our team is working as quickly as possible to return the plant to full operation, and we do not anticipate any disruption in service to our consumers.”

Quaker opened the plant in Columbia in 1995 for the production of Quaker Rice Cakes. Quaker first entered the rice cakes category in 1985 with the acquisition of Arden Organics, an Asheville, N.C.-based company that helped pioneer the rice cakes market in the United States.