Burton Rising From the Ashes
It was getting late on Oct. 4, 2013. Burton Metal Finishing in Columbus, Ohio, had closed for the day, all the employees were long gone, and—as many shop owners find themselves—Scott Burton was still on the phone with a customer.
He was too busy discussing specs for a new job to notice the white smoke seeping in under his office door. He had smelled something burning, but that wasn’t too unusual in his company’s neighborhood.
It wasn’t until Burton heard the phone line crackle and then go dead that he noticed anything was wrong. The fire that was ravaging his shop had burned through the phone lines.
When he opened his office door, black smoke poured in and knocked him over, whipping around like a tornado.
“Totally dark,” Burton says of that moment. “I couldn’t see a thing. It was just like in the movies. I turned on the flashlight on my phone, and nothing. I hit the floor and started crawling to the exit.”
Fire officials later told Burton and his family—Burton’s brother Dan is company president and his sister Victoria is the CFO—that the fire probably started when an employee tossed a cigarette into the compressor room trash. They found about a dozen butts in the trash; it had been a fire just waiting to happen.