Fire Damages Apple’s Former Sapphire-Screen Factory in Arizona

The unlucky streak continues at Apple Inc.’s factory in Mesa, Arizona.

A fire broke out on Tuesday at the facility, home to failed efforts by a supplier to manufacture sapphire screens for iPhones and the future location of an Apple data center. The blaze, which began on the roof of the more than 1.3 million-square-foot building, caused damage around the building’s loading docks, Forrest Smith, a spokesman for the city’s fire department, wrote in an e-mail.

The Mesa factory was a key part of Apple’s efforts to return manufacturing to the U.S. after years of relying on Asian suppliers. The iPhone maker brought in GT Advanced Technologies Inc. to make scratch-resistant screens for the iPhone, but the smaller company couldn’t deliver enough material. After failing to fulfill the terms of an agreement with Apple, GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy protection last year. As part of a settlement with Apple approved in December, GT can use the Mesa facility through December.

A dozen people were evacuated from the plant and none was reported to be injured, Smith said. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the fire.

Apple announced in February that it would invest $2 billion to convert the building into a data center.

Before Apple acquired the facility in 2013, it was part of First Solar Inc.’s failed plans to build solar panels there.

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