Fire destroys maintenance shop near peanut plant - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fire destroys maintenance shop near peanut plant

By Tayleigh Davis - bio | email | twitter

OCILLA, GA (WALB) - The State Fire Marshall's office is investigating a blaze that destroyed a maintenance warehouse in Ocilla. The building caught fire late Friday night next to the Dixie Peanut Producers Plant causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Alan Gray and his family own what's now charred remains of their maintenance shop. He and an Ocilla police officer canvass the property searching for answers.

An Erwin County EMS crew spotted the fire around 8:00 Friday night. Jerry Martin saw it and sent in the first image to WALB.

"The first thing I thought was somebody was hurt," said Martin "It was just like a loud boom. It scared me. After the boom, the sky just lit up and smoke was everywhere. On my way down the highway I saw a big ball of fire right there."

Ocilla Fire Rescue crews responded within minutes.

"The fire was on the inside and as soon as they made entry, it flashed and we had to back up and take a defense effort from it because it would have been dangerous for the guys," said Ocilla Fire Rescue Captain Kenneth Hendley.

Firefighters ran lines from the outside until they received more help from Ben Hill and Irwin Counties Fire and Rescue.

Gray says thousands of dollars worth of tools from his car crushing business were inside, not to mention welders, pressure washers, four wheelers, trailers, a fork lift. The list goes on.

His 1994 Camero and recently restored 1970 Chevrolet were one of many items burned.

Gray's father, Jack Gray, owned the neighboring peanut plant for 50 years before he sold it and kept this remaining land. With peanut harvest in full swing, Jerry Martin is just glad no workers were hurt.

"I know with peanut season people are working late sometimes but I just thought, I hope nobody was hurt," Martin said.

The fire did not affect Dixie Peanut Producers production. Local and state officials will continue their investigation Monday.

One firefighter suffered first and second degree burns while battling the flames and another was hospitalized with smoke inhalation.

They were treated and released from the hospital. Both are expected to be ok.

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