Georgia Chemical Fire 'Under Control'; Evacuations Lifted

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Residents were being allowed to return home Monday night after firefighters made progress battling a massive blaze at a chemical plant in Georgia, fire officials said.

At a Monday evening briefing, Glynn County Commission Chairman Wayne Neal said the evacuation orders were being lifted.

"At this point we think everything is under control and contained," Neal said.

An estimated 100 households were ordered to evacuate Monday morning within a 1-mile radius of the Symrise chemical plant, mostly because of potential smoke hazards. There had also been explosions at the site.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Capt. Eric Prosswimmer said firefighters had extinguished most of the blaze, but planned to put another layer of foam on the site Monday evening. The state fire marshal's office will investigate where the fire started, he said.

Emergency responders safely evacuated a handful of employees working when the fire broke out about 4 a.m. at the plant outside the port city of Brunswick, said Prosswimmer, who was on the scene with his fire crews from Jacksonville, Florida, sent to help battle the flames.

The fire sent a large plume of thick smoke into the air from the plant about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Savannah. The smoke died down for a few hours late Monday morning, then flared up again for a short period in the afternoon -- forcing firefighters to back away until it subsided.

Prosswimmer said heat from the fire had caused three metal tanks containing chemicals to explode. Fighting the blaze was further complicated when firefighters depleted more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of water stored in tanks on the site. Tanker trucks filled with water were brought to the scene, where firefighters also used foam to battle the flames.

Prosswimmer said one firefighter suffering from exhaustion had been taken to a hospital and was in stable condition. There were no other injuries.

The plant is operated by Symrise, a German company that produces fragrances, flavoring and other ingredients for foods and cosmetics. The Georgia plant manufactures fragrance ingredients used in perfumes, detergents and household cleaners, Smyrise spokesperson Christina Witter said.

The company said in a statement Monday the cause of the fire was not known.

"Currently, Symrise has no reason to believe that the fire will cause additional health hazards to the local community," the statement said. "Symrise will closely cooperate and support local authorities in analyzing the causes for the fire as soon as the authorities allow return to the area."