UPDATE: 225 people evacuated from Orange Grove Center after fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: 225 people evacuated from Orange Grove Center after fire

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UPDATE: Clean up continues at the Orange Grove Center after a small fire Wednesday afternoon left the facility with smoke and water damage.

The fire happened around 2 p.m. when employees were working to install a new conveyor belt in the Materials Recovery Facility. Fire officials believe sparks from the torch used to install it started the fire.

The Orange Grove Center is a private non-profit organization, serving adults and children with intellectual disabilities. There were no injuries and those with the Orange Grove Center say it's because they practice frequently to make sure everyone is ready for any type of emergency and Wednesday tested their skills.

Nearly 225 people were evacuated from the Orange Grove Center, after a conveyor belt caught fire.

"You could see the belt was on fire itself and the material on it was on fire," said Bruce Garner, Public Information Officer for the Chattanooga Fire Department. "This involved a lot of combustibles with petroleum based products; computers, plastics, things like that. They burn hot and put out a lot of smoke. It's like burning a tire."

Creating smoke so thick, firefighters couldn't see their hands in front of their faces.

Fortunately, everyone who had been inside the center was already outside, safe and sound, when firefighters arrived.

"All of our folks were lined up around the tracks and they looked like they were having a terrific time like they were getting lined up for a picture," Heidi Hoffecker, Director of Development with the Orange Grove Center says they train everyone to be ready in any situation.

"What is first and foremost for us is keeping all of our people safe whether it is the people we serve or our staff," said Hoffecker. "We do fire drills every month without fail, so we literally know the drill."

If Wednesday had been a test, everyone here would have passed with flying colors.

"Practice makes perfect and the more familiar you are with the sights and sounds that are going to happen or may occur when there is a fire drill, when an actual emergency, the better prepared we are to deal with it," said Hoffecker.

The fire damage was only around the conveyor belt, but fire officials say it will take some time for Orange Grove to clean up after the smoke damage, and water from the sprinkler system.

The Orange Grove Center has been evacuated due to reports of a fire.

According to Bruce Garner, spokesperson for the Chattanooga Fire Department, the fire department was called on reports of smoke.The building, located on Derby Street, was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The fire broke out on a conveyor belt on the second floor of the Material Recovery Facility. The fire caught some of the recyclables on fire. 

Many of the items are petroleum based plastic products which produced more smoke than damage. 

Channel 3 has a crew at the scene. Stay with us for updates.
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