March 27, 2023

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Residents were allowed to return home this week after they were evacuated when a large fire broke out Monday inside a chemical plant on the coast of Georgia. Authorities had feared nearby neighborhoods could have been hit with toxic smoke and potential explosions.

“At this point we think everything is under control and contained,” Glynn County Commission Chairman Wayne Neal said, according to the Associated Press and local news reports.

Emergency responders safely evacuated a small handful of employees working when the fire began at about 4 a.m. Monday at the Symrise plant outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia, said fire Capt. Eric Proswimmer. Fire crews from nearby Jacksonville, Florida, were sent to help battle the flames. The plant is located about 70 miles south of Savannah.

The fire sent a large plume of thick smoke into the air. As a precaution, local emergency officials ordered neighborhoods within a 1-mile radius of the plant to evacuate, said Glynn County government spokesperson Katie Baasen. People within a 3-mile radius were told to shelter in place.

Baasen said officials were mostly concerned about hazards posed by smoke drifting into populated areas. But she said there was also potential threat from explosions.

Proswimmer said heat from the fire had caused three metal tanks containing chemicals to explode, prompting firefighters to back away. He said firefighters had exhausted more than 1 million gallons of water stored in tanks on the site, further complicating efforts to fight the blaze.

“It’s not widespread, it’s not crazy right now,” Proswimmer said of the fire. “But we’ve got chemicals that are hazardous and we are staying back from them at this time.”

He said one firefighter suffering from exhaustion had been taken to a hospital, but there were no other injuries.

The plant is operated by Symrise, a company based in Germany that produces fragrances, flavoring and other ingredients for foods and cosmetics. The company said in a statement Monday the cause of the fire was not known.

“Currently, Symrise has no reason to believe that the fire will cause additional health hazards to the local community,” Symrise’s statement said. “Symrise will closely cooperate and support local authorities in analyzing the causes for the fire as soon as the authorities allow return to the area.”

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

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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