Chattooga County Emergency Management Agency Director Eddie Henderson said it may be several days before officials with the state Fire Marshal’s Office are able to get into the building, which was operating as a plastics recycling center.
“A lot of time fire marshals like to take dogs inside,” Henderson said. “This would be very hazardous to the dog, not only (from ) the chemicals but the heat, too.”
Firefighters were removing bales of molten plastic with heavy machinery Sunday afternoon, July 29, and then soaking them to make sure there were no embers left to kindle further flames.
Henderson said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was still advising anyone within a quarter-mile of the plant to remain inside because of concentrations of particulate matter in the smoke still coming from the charred remains of the plant built in the late 1880s. The recommendation included limiting outdoor activity within two miles of the plant.
Henderson said the EPA is continuing to monitor air quality at several sites in the county. Burning PVC pipe was a concern during the early stages of the battle against the blaze. That situation, which never became critical, had improved significantly by Sunday evening, according to Henderson.
Exterior walls of the old mill are still standing, but most of the roof has collapsed.
Edward E. Ledford of Summerville, who is listed as president of North Georgia Textile Supply Co., owns the mill property. The Rome News-Tribune has not been able to contact Ledford.
The fire erupted inside the plastics recycling center sometime between 4 and 4:30 p.m. Friday, and in no time was spewing flames and thick black smoke high into the sky.
Emergency responders from 50 agencies across Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee battled the flames until early Saturday morning.
Just when they thought they had the situation under control and were conducting an incident review meeting, at about 8 a.m. Saturday, a wall apparently collapsed — reigniting the fire. It took several more hours to secure the scene, Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters said.