By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
CALHOUN, TN (WRCB) - Firefighters in McMinn County spent Saturday afternoon putting out a fire at a paper mill in Calhoun.
Several viewers alerted us to the situation, saying they saw heavy smoke rising from the Resolute Forest Products plant in Calhoun, better known as the old 'Bowater' plant.
"I saw some smoke. Not a whole lot. It seemed like it was calming down. They told us there had been a fire," says Brittany East.
"As I was pulling in there was a bunch of police officers pulling in to the Bowater and then like a few minutes later, you seen like a whole bunch of smoke. Really black smoke," says Lashay Smith.
Several people near the Resolute Forest Products paper mill in Calhoun, Tennessee noticed the smoke rising from the plant late Saturday afternoon.
"I seen one ambulance go in and one fire truck and I think I seen two cops," says Smith.
Smith works at the Hardee's across the street from the mill and says some emergency responders stopped in the restaurant.
"The men were inside, they were like on standby for whatever, if they needed them," she says.
It turns out the fire started in the wood yard behind the plant.
A spokesperson with Resolute tells Channel 3, "Employees at Resolute Forest Products' plant in Calhoun noticed that the bark pile at the mill was smoldering. The mill's Emergency Response Team was notified and recognized that they would require assistance from area fire fighting crews to fully respond."
Both McMinn and Bradley County fire departments responded, dousing the pile with water.
"I'm sure they were pretty quick about it, because they're close by," says East.
The spokesperson went on to say, "At this point we believe that the bark material self-combusted, following long days of hot dry heat."
"We haven't heard of anything bad happening to anybody. So that's like that main thing," says Smith.
No one was hurt and the fire is contained.
Firefighters will continue spraying water and monitoring the pile to make sure the fire does not restart.
We are told the bark at the mill is burned in the plant's biomass burner to generate steam.