UPDATE: Fire guts Dalton warehouse; heat weakens firefighters - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Fire guts Dalton warehouse; heat weakens firefighters

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DALTON, WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB) --Whitfield County firefighters may as well be playing poker against a stacked deck.

"It was too far gone when we initially got the call," firefighter J.D. Manley says.

The fire at the Signs Graphic Printing warehouse on South Dixie Highway began just after 3:00 a.m.

"The fire actually was all the way through the structure," Assistant Chief Randy Kittle says.

Signs Graphics Printing's (SGP) warehouse on South Dixie Highway is chock full of everything you would expect from such a business.

"Stacks of boxes, paper, ink and all," Kittle says.

That alone would have been dangerous kindling. But throw in a few tanks of liquid propane, and magnesium printing plates, and a fire becomes a blowtorch. Blue flames spouted from the cinder block building at times Wednesday morning.

One wall would crack and collapse. Three dozen full time and volunteer firefighters would need 2.5 hours simply to get ahead of it.

July's 90+ degree heat and corresponding humidity raised the risk to firefighters themselves.

"We had a couple of firefighters suffer heat exhaustion," Kittle says. "We treated them, they're fine now."

Noon, nine hours after the call came in, about a dozen firefighters are babysitting the smoldering shell that remains on-guard for hot spots.

Of late, SGP managers had been treating the warehouse as if it were a fifth wheel.

"We haven't had it manned. It's been open only three days a week," spokesman Jamey Kennedy tells Eyewitness News. "We've been running out of Kraft Drive for years. It won't affect business at all."

Firefighters have not determined whether the fire was an accident, an electrical problem, or arson.

"We'll have to get in and clear away some of the debris to make that determination," Manley says. "Probably gonna take several days just to get it cool enough to get in to work with it."

Clearing the debris will require a crane, Kittle says, whether that's undertaken, will be up to SGP's insurance company, and that of its landlord.

"Those things cost thousands," Whittle says.  "And we (Whitfield County) aren't footing that bill."

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