Chattanooga chemical plant goes up in flames - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga chemical plant goes up in flames

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Chattanooga firefighters rushed to a fire Thursday night where a company was engulfed in flames. It was about 9 p.m. when Zeco, Inc. caught fire.

Firefighters say the entire backside of the South Creek Road building was on fire. The cause isn't clear, but we have new details on what made it a challenging fire to take on.

Fire investigators spent Friday on the scene at Zeco Inc. It's a company that manufactures chemicals for soaps. Of course crews are on high alert anytime chemicals are involved in a fire. In this case, they had a hard time at first even getting to the fire to fight it.

Channel 3 was there just after 9 p.m. Thursday as flames and smoke shot into the sky from the Zeco Inc. plant on South Creek Road. Meanwhile, the Hamilton County 911 center was swamped with calls from drivers on Amnicola Highway and Dupont Parkway reporting an orange glow they saw from their cars.

"Saw a lot of flames and they knew they had a big fire on their hands," Chattanooga Fire Department Spokesperson Bruce Garner said.

Eight Chattanooga fire crews arrived on scene to find their access to the burning building blocked, first by a fence.

"They actually had to stop and get some cutters and cut the lock off," Garner said.

He says then they were blocked by the back walls of the building.

"They had to cut their way inside the building, but once they did that, they were able to make an interior attack," Garner said.

Friday you could see some hot spots still smoldering. as fire investigators tracked the burn pattern to find out why the fire broke out in the first place.

"There were reports of small explosions, but that could be anything," Garner said.

Zeco Inc. Vice President Steve Wirtz says he's thankful no employees were there at the time and that the blaze didn't spread to the area where their chemicals are stored. It's an area firefighters were well aware of.

Because so many manufacturing plants that use chemicals are concentrated near Amnicola, that makes any fire along there especially dangerous. So, crews take extra steps to prepare before a fire breaks out at one.

"The firefighters at station ten regularly visit those companies. They make what they call pre-fire plans, which is a sketch of the building and then a general idea of what they do, if they have any hazardous substances," Garner said.

Since the main part of the fire was at the back of the building, the plant is still able to operate. Zeco Inc. officials say hey don't yet know a dollar estimate on the amount of damage.

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