UPDATE: Fire at Dalton chemical plant not the first incident - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Fire at Dalton chemical plant not the first incident

WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- A chemical fire forces evacuations, closes roads and delays school buses.

It happened Tuesday afternoon at Harcros Chemicals, an industrial chemical manufacturing plant in Dalton.

Channel 3 is learning this isn't the first time a chemical fire or spill at this plant has forced evacuations, and residents who live nearby do not believe it will be the last.

It wasn't until the phone rang that Nakia Quinn found out about the fire down the street.

"School called me," Quinn says. "There's been a chemical spill, a chemical fire, down near my house and my son wouldn't be getting home."

A fire inside Harcros Chemicals shut down Corporate Drive off South Dixie Highway for several hours.

Hazmat crews were called when a 55 gallon drum of a chemical called toluene caught fire.

The solvent is used to dissolve paints, rubbers and glues.

"We don't know what caused the barrel to ignite," says Fire Chief Carl Collins.

First responders tried extinguishers, and then water.

The flames were eventually put out, but not without disruption to nearby businesses.

"We evacuated some areas, just as a precaution to start with," Chief Collins says. "We didn't know exactly what we were dealing with, but mostly on site right up to the incident turned out to be the most dangerous part."

Toxic fumes were contained to Harcros' property, where workers were allowed to return around 5:00 p.m.

Roads reopened shortly after.

It's a response plan that has been used before.

Fire officials say it's not the first time they've been called to this plant.

Channel 3 was there in 2007, when a poisonous chemical leak forced residents near the plant to evacuate.

Anhydrous ammonia spilled from a pressure valve, while it was being loaded onto a tanker.

Nakia Quinn remembers that day well.

"They had it pretty much quarantined off for about five miles from here," says Quinn.

Chief Carl Collins says this incident was far less dangerous for workers, residents and fire crews, but he says any chemical call comes with risks.

Nakia Quinn, who works in another Dalton manufacturing plant, says those risks are just part of the job.

"Work in them all day every day, it ain't nothing but a thing," says Quinn.

Channel 3 attempted to reach Harcros officials for comment. We were told their public relations spokesperson is out of town until next week, and we'd have to wait until then to get our questions answered.

Georgia's environmental protection division investigated the 2007 spill.

No word if the agency will look into this latest incident.

Corporate Drive has reopened.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this developing story.

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