A fire is raging in Brunswick, Georgia, with multiple explosions reported and locals evacuated. Emergency responders safely evacuated a small handful of employees working at the Symrise chemical plant when the fire broke out at about 4am local time (9am GMT).
Local residents in Hickory Bluff are also being evacuated, and other neighbourhoods and schools are under shelter-in-place orders due to the possible risk of further explosions.
The fire sent a large plume of thick smoke into the air, and as a precaution, local emergency officials ordered neighbourhoods within a 1-mile radius of the plant to evacuate.
At around 7.45am local time (12.45pm GMT), Glynn County Sheriff’s Office said: “Code Red has been engaged.”
It said that as well as Hickory Bluff, nearby Sanctuary Cove, Satilla Shores and Royal Oaks were also being evacuated.
Glynn County government spokesperson Katie Baasen said people within a 3-mile (5km) radius were told to shelter in place.
Ms Baasen said officials were mostly concerned about hazards posed by smoke drifting into populated areas, but added there was also potential threat from explosions.
She added that the fire had been contained and was expected to burn itself out.
Fire Capt. Eric Proswimmer, who was on the scene with fire crews from Jacksonville, Florida, sent to help battle the flames, said heat from the fire had caused three metal tanks containing chemicals to explode, prompting firefighters to back away.
The emergency responder added firefighters had exhausted more than a million gallons of water stored in tanks on the site.
He said: “It’s not widespread, it’s not crazy right now. 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 cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Capt. Proswimmer said an investigation would be conducted after the fire was extinguished.
The plant is operated by Symrise, a Germany-based company that produces fragrances and flavourings, along with other chemicals used in food and cosmetics.
The company said in a statement: “Currently, Symrise has no reason to believe that the fire will cause additional health hazards to the local community.
“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.”
Rich Skrovan, a Hickory Bluff resident, told Brunswick News: “We’re going.”
He said he was checking on his neighbours, one of whom was 96 and did not subscrib to emergency alerts, while others required medical equipment such as oxygen tanks.
The local said they were “not in good shape”, but did not want to leave them behind without trying to help.
He added: “You’ve got to do that. You can’t leave and come back and they’re gone.”
More to follow…