Summerville recycling plant fire intensifies, residents evacuated
SUMMERVILLE, GA (WRCB) - Massive flames and black smoke have been taking over the area surrounding a Chattooga County recycling center. That's been happening for more than 24 hours. Dozens of nearby residents were evacuated overnight.
Channel 3 was at the Berryton Recycling Complex shortly after the huge fire broke Friday evening. More than 15 firefighting agencies have been working non-stop to get the blaze under control, but a roof collapse this morning caused it to intensify even more and spread.
"It worked it's way around to where it's at today, overnight," Chattooga Co. Emergency Management Director Eddie Henderson said.
The blaze started at an end building, but has now taken over three warehouses. "You have a fuel that just continues to feed itself," Henderson said.
That's because it's full of fuel, plastics, and heaps of unknown items. "It's like a furnace," resident Carl Owen said.
The old Harriet and Henderson Cotton Mill was turned into a recycling center several years ago. "I worked here at this plant for 27 years. It's sad. See, that's the biggest thing in this community," Owen said.
Residents within a quarter mile were evacuated overnight. "It's a pretty bad situation but everybody seems to be all right and nobody is injured so that's the main thing," evacuated resident Kenneth Westmoreland said.
"I seen this huge, huge smoke. I mean, just jet black," resident Donna Burke said.
Residents to the east were told to leave within a half mile because of the wind. "It's blowing right towards my house," Burke said.
"This smoke contains particulates that are not good to be breathing," Henderson said.
"I have COPD so, yes, it's a concern-- the thick smoke and chemicals and no telling what's in there," Burke said.
By Saturday afternoon, firefighters said their method of keeping the fire from spreading started to work.
"It's not a foam. It's more of a soap-- the surfactant is. It sticks to the burning fuel," Henderson said.
"It's hard to imagine unless you can really see it," Westmoreland said.
"I worked in the fire department for 26 years and I have never encountered anything like this," Henderson said.
Emergency officials say they think they've gotten over the hump in the fire fight. They've had residents within five miles on standby for evacuation, but don't think it will get to that point now. Still, it may take a few days to put out. They do not know what started the fire at this time.