Substance fire calls for evacuation in Ocilla - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Substance fire calls for evacuation in Ocilla

January 18, 2007

Ocilla -- Hazardous materials specialists are called to a fire at an Ocilla warehouse, while people who lived close by were evacuated from their homes. The Ocilla Fire Department responded to a smoldering box of an unknown crystallized substance at the Collins Demolition and Salvage on Cherry Street.

It started as a small fire in a small box of white crystallized powder at the Collins Demolition and Salvage, a building that was formerly a meat curing plant. Employees at the shop were working on renovations with a fire torch when the box caught fire.

"When it lit up we put the fire out, and it kept smoldering and smoking, so we called the fire department for a safety measure," said owner Charles Collins.

A safety measure the Ocilla Fire Department took very seriously, following protocol for dealing with chemicals or an unknown substance.

"Upon arrival we noted that there was three propane bottles, one saline bottle, one oxygen bottle, and an unknown substance in a 24 gallon cardboard container," said Fire Chief Mark Taibi.

Since firefighters did not know if the substance was explosive or harmful to breathe in, residents in nearby homes were evacuated, and no one touched the substance until a hazardous materials team from Coffee County arrived two and a half hours later.

"They came down, went ahead and attained a sample of it, they analyzed it, and found out that it was crystallized meat tenderizer," said Chief Taibi.

Not harmful by any means, but Fire Chief Mark Taibi says he followed procedures with an unknown substance to ensure the safety of people involved and neighbors nearby. Owner Charles Collins says he was surprised so many public safety officials turned out, but he's thankful the incident wasn't more serious.

"I'm lucky it was not a fire, just smoke. Or I would be looking for a building," said Collins.

But even though it was just smoke, fire officials were sure to follow protocol to protect people.

After the substance was identified as meat tenderizer, firefighters sprayed down the smoking box. No one was injured during the incident.

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