Chemical fire in Crisp County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Chemical fire in Crisp County

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March 9, 2004

Cordele-- A chemical fire and explosion, "The building was virtually surrounded by flammables."

Tankards of explosive chemicals and oil were near the flames. The fire at Drexel Chemical Company started inside the mixing plant, where barrels of explosive pesticides are located.

That wasn't the only problem firefighters faced last night. Surrounding the building were tankards full of oil used in the mixing process, as well as large cylinders of flammable pesticides. It was a situation that could have quickly got out of hand.

We had a camera on the scene Monday night. But, for safety reasons, we had to say several blocks away. Firefighters were dealing with highly explosive and potentially poisonous chemicals.

"No they didn't ask nobody to evacuate, I left because I was scared it was going to get worse." Jan Akin's house is just a few hundred yards from Drexel Chemical Company.

She heard several loud explosions from the plant and says flames shot up several stories in the air, "Two loud explosions and it kept burning and then it kind of got in that area, closer to the house, I don't know what was burning there."

"55 gallon drums inside heated up until they exploded and they take off like a missile in whatever direction they want too." Crisp County Fire Chief Ray Lundsford led multiple fire units, containing the flames to the mixing plant--although hundreds of gallons of explosive materials surrounded the building.

Lundsford says,"We had several vertical tanks with oil and pesticides. We also a rail car in the back with oil that they used in the mixing process. So the building was virtually surrounded with flammables."

Firefighters also managed to trap much of the water used fighting the flames--dodging a potentially hazardous environmental situation, "Crews there on site had sand bags ready they started and sandbagged the area, but we had no water runoff. It was all contained to the site. In fact they pumped it all off the rest of the night there."

Firefighters battled the blaze early into the morning--most of the hazardous chemicals inside the building were burned off by the fire.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but Chief Lundsford says the most damage was sustained near the electrical panels inside the building.

State agencies will investigate potential environmental damage.

Firefighters say calm winds allowed the fumes and smoke coming from the fire to drift up and away from the city of Cordele.  Lundsford says, "We did have a smoke plume coming out and traveling to the southeast, it was missing a subdivision.  We did check on that and we went back and traveled it several miles to make sure it was not drifting onto the houses. We didn't have to evacuate anybody."

Firefighters also trapped the water used fighting the fire, avoiding more environmental problems. The water and chemical mixture was pumped into a storage unit on site and the chemical company will analyze the liquid.

Posted at 4:37 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com