Firefighters battled intense flames at a sporting goods factory on Montreal's South Shore on Saturday.

Michel Constantin Mulligan International

Michel Constantin said about 20 employees were inside the golf-ball recycling facility at the time the fire started. (Radio-Canada)

Plumes of thick, black smoke were cast into the sky as four million golf balls burned.

The fire caused bad visibility on nearby roads, leading authorities to close Highway 20 in both directions between the 109th and 112th kilometre marks.

Highway 20 in the direction of Quebec City was reopened late in the afternoon. As of 4 p.m., the road toward Montreal remained closed.

The Mulligan International factory, near Highway 20 on De l'Industrie Street in Beloeil, Que., manufactures sporting goods and also recycles golf balls. According to the company's website, it recycles 27 million golf balls a year.

According to owner Michel Constantin, the fire started around 7:30 a.m. Saturday in his golf-ball recycling facility.

RAW: Firefighters in action at the Beloeil golf-ball recycling plant

About 20 employees were inside at the time of the fire. One received minor injuries to the hands after trying to put the fire out with an extinguisher, said Constantin.

City spokeswoman Geneviève David said there is currently no concern for the air quality despite the fire. However, the homes on one nearby street have been evacuated as a precaution.

About 70 firefighters from seven surrounding municipalities were still on the scene seven hours after the fire began. 

Donald Lebrun of the Beloeil fire department said Saturday afternoon that teams switched from water to foam to try to douse the flames, which seemed to be more effective at extinguishing the fire.

The damage has been pegged at over $2 million so far, and the building is being considered a total loss.

Mulligan International

Mulligan International says it recycles 27 million golf balls a year. (Radio-Canada)