ReturnWe Were There - XVII: Our relationship with fire
Any company that works with chemicals has a high risk of fire, and unfortunately Montana Colors is no exception. In this chapter, we reflect on the explosions that came close to paralyzing this great adventure. We can also draw clear parallels with the realities of graffiti: managing risk and overcoming adversity.
RISK IN GRAFFITI
One of the elements associated with graffiti which makes it attractive to much of its community is risk. This factor isn’t a mainstay of all forms of urban expression - some are far more risky than others.
Graffiti is too complex to be classified as a simple risk pursuit. In its present form, it is diverse and has been adapted to many different visions. It is produced and consumed in as many ways as you can imagine.
Still, high-risk graffiti still exists, involving the danger rooted in its origins. Today, it coexists with the rest of the types of graffiti, evolving with the times and circumstances all over the world.
THE PERILS OF PAINT PRODUCTION
In a way, making aerosols of could be considered as a dangerous endeavour, through manufacturing paint rather than running from the authorities or dodging trains. By contrast, making watercolors is nowhere near as complex as the process of making spray paint with its gas propellant.
Of all the resources that have to be invested in health and safety and accident prevention, the most volatile part of production is the handling of gas and solvents - both extremely flammable components of spray paint.
Montana has fallen victim to several industrial accidents involving inflammable products over the years, which would have a direct and immediate effect on the journey of the brand.
“I was in Madrid, talking to someone who wanted Montana to sponsor their event. We were sitting in a bar and I had the TV in the corner of my eye, just behind the guy. The news was on and although I couldn’t hear the sound, something caught my attention: I saw the word “Montana Colors” in the headlines, and I looked up to see the factory on fire. Dozens of firefighters sprayed water in a futile struggle against fierce flames that levelled everything in a couple of hours. I had to keep a straight face and continue the conversation with the person in front of me, while my heart sank."
THE SPARK THAT STARTED THE FIRE
It was summer of 2002 and a year had passed since the German distributors had launched a campaign of propaganda to create confusion in the market and position their new product using the Montana name. Meanwhile, the members of the Montana family were doing their best to keep it afloat, despite the economic damage that this malevolent campaign was causing.
When it looked like things were at their worst, a spark of static electricity started a fire at the warehouse in Vacarisses, Barcelona, which was the base for manufacturing and distribution as well as offices. In just a few minutes, all the workers were evacuated and flames engulfed the building completely. The building was in ashes.
Overcoming this setback was going to be one of the most challenging times that our company would ever encounter. Jordi Rubio's motivation and ability to obtain financing, plus the support of the rest of the workers and supporters of this the company, resulted in a rebirth of the brand and the factory.
This arduous instalment of awful events came to its conclusion when a new production plant in nearby Sant Vicenç De Castellet was opened in 2003, featuring a mural from the superstars from São Paolo: Os Gemeos, who completed the decoration of the impressive new facilities.
FIRE STRIKES AGAIN
Despite having a whole new industrial safety management system, with the manpower to keep on top of the plant, the risks of working with inflammable products took their toll again 11 years later, in 2013. Two accidents - separated by just four months - caused fires at two different locations, destroying the mixing plant and paint storage facility.
The fires in the last decade demonstrated that the Montana Colors project would always have to be accompanied by the maximum precautions. Surviving the accidents didn’t immunize us, but simply warned of the danger involved in producing spray paint. Never again would we lower our guard during any part of the process, no matter how simple.
A VITAL LESSON
These destructive and terrible events - which fortunately only resulted in minor injuries to one of our team - eventually gave the people working at Montana Colors more strength and confidence to go forward. Despite the initial blow, the recovery experience was empowering and eventually had a positive effect on everyone involved.
There’s a saying that came from these tough times at Montana Colors, which has gone on to inspire the journey of the company and has proven to be a great lesson in life.
“The person that gets back up when they fall is braver than someone who’s never fallen.”
ShareFebruary 24, 2021