Evacuated settlements near a burning chemical plant in Georgia

Evacuated settlements near a burning chemical plant in Georgia

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A large fire broke out Monday at a chemical plant on the coast of Georgia, where authorities ordered the evacuation of about 100 nearby homes due to threats of toxic smoke and possible explosions.

Emergency services safely evacuated a handful of employees who were working when the fire broke out about 4 a.m. at the plant outside the port city of Brunswick, said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer, who was on the scene with fire crews from Jacksonville, Fla., sent to help fight the fire. with flames.

Residents living within a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius remained under evacuation orders Monday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the fire broke out. Still, Prosswimmer said firefighters are making significant progress fighting the blaze.

“Most of the fires are out,” Proswimmer said late Monday afternoon, adding that he hoped people wouldn’t have to spend the night away from home.

“When we believe it is safe, then they will lift the evacuation,” he said.

The fire sent a large plume of thick smoke into the air from the facility about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Savannah. The smoke died down for several hours late Monday morning, then flared up again for a brief period in the afternoon – forcing firefighters to retreat until it subsided.

Wayne Neal, chairman of the Glynn County Board of Selectmen, estimated that approximately 100 households were told to evacuate. Law enforcement officers used patrol cars to block entrances to affected neighborhoods.

In addition to the evacuation, people within a 3-mile (5-kilometer) radius were told to shelter in place.

Officials said they were mostly concerned about the danger posed by the smoke being brought into populated areas. There were also explosions at the scene.

Prosswimmer said the heat from the fire caused three metal chemical tanks to explode. Fighting the fire was further complicated when firefighters used up more than a million gallons (3.8 million liters) of water stored in tanks at the site. Tankers filled with water were brought to the scene, where firefighters also used foam to extinguish the flames.

Prosswimmer said one firefighter suffering from exhaustion was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition. There were no other injuries.

The factory is operated by Symrise, a German company that produces fragrances, flavors and other ingredients for food and cosmetics. The Georgia plant makes fragrance ingredients used in perfumes, detergents and household cleaners, said Smyrise spokeswoman Christina Witter.

The company said in a statement on Monday that the cause of the fire is unknown.

“At this time, Symrise has no reason to believe that the fire will cause additional health hazards to the local community,” the statement said. “Symrise will work closely with and support local authorities in analyzing the cause of the fire as soon as authorities allow a return to the area.”

Prosswimmer said an investigation will be conducted after the fire is extinguished.


An earlier version of this report misspelled Captain Eric Prosswimmer’s last name.

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