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Firefighters respond to incident at battery manufacturing plant

Jacksonville firefighters go through decontamination after leaving building

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An incident at a large manufacturing plant for rechargeable batteries at Cecil Commerce Center led to an evacuation Friday afternoon while firefighters dealt with an incident inside.

Saft America Inc., which claims to be the world's leading designer and manufacturer of high-tech industrial batteries, employs about 150 people in a 235,000-square-foot building.

There was no word from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue on why firefighters were called, but firefighters exiting the building were hosed down in a decontamination process that a spokesman called standard procedure.

The general manager of the plant said "a situation popped up" while they were testing a lithium-ion battery and the fire department was called as a property. Everyone got out safely and there were no injuries.

The city of Jacksonville authorized $5.3 million in incentives to attract the Saft plant in 2009 with a promise from the manufacturer that it would create 279 full-time jobs by the end of 2017. Last year, the city asked the company to repay $320,000 for missing its target.

Saft also received $14.9 million in state financial incentives and was awarded $95.5 million in federal stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build the plant at the height of the 2008 Great Recession. Both President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited the plant in 2016, talking about their economic successes.

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