Fire Destroys Warehouse in Brunswick

| July 12, 2015
Florida Times Union Photo

Florida Times Union Photo

BRUNSWICK — Fire destroyed two huge warehouses loaded with wood fuel pellets Saturday afternoon, but firefighters halted it before it reached a third, officials said.
The fire at the Marine Ports Terminal on Brunswick’s south end started about 1 p.m. and both warehouses appeared to have collapsed exposing the enormous piles of wood pellets in each that smoldered as firefighters poured water onto them from above.

Brunswick Fire Marshal Rhett Fairfield said someone called 911 about the fire just after 1 p.m. and that city firefighters found smoke coming from the southernmost warehouse. Within 15 minutes it was engulfed in flames and the fire quickly spread to a second, he said.

“When we showed up we immediately began calling for mutual aid,’’ he said.

Fairfield said Glynn County firefighters were on the scene quickly and by 4 p.m. at least seven departments with a combined 40 to 50 firefighters were battling what had become a smoldering fire with pockets of open flame.

Fairfield said that no one had been hurt and added, “By now most of the danger is gone.”

People in the row of houses along Newcastle Street adjacent to the terminal fence had been allowed back in their homes, he said.

Each warehouse contained 10,000 to 15,000 tons of wood pellets, said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

The fire started as workers with Logistec, the Canadian company that leases the bulk shipment facility from the Ports Authority, was loading a ship with wood pellets as they simultaneously were offloading a rail shipment into the warehouse.

Foltz said given the nature of the warehouse contents, there is no risk of any explosion.

The big warehouses were built in 1982 and 1983 and were used to ship bulk commodities including fertilizer shipments at one time.

Brunswick and neighboring departments were using ladder and boom trucks to hit the fire from overhead, Fairfield said.

Getting the fire out completely is likely to take a long time because the city will have to bring in heavy equipment to peel back the collapsed warehouse and outer layers of wood pellets to get at the hot spots that are likely burning within, he said.

“It’s going to be a slow progress,’’ he said.

Fairfield said the city had brought nearly a mile of supply line and a lot of it was in use carrying water from hydrants in nearby blocks to trucks arrayed around the ruined buildings.

Foltz said Savannah was sending down a big pump that can supply huge volumes of water from the river.

The pellets in the warehouses are produced in the southeast and shipped to markets in northern Europe, he said.

“Obviously, it’s been a big business, a new business, for the state,’’ Foltz said.

Matt Sudden, who lives has only a dirt lane and a metal fence between his house and the warehouses, said he heard the fire just about 1 p.m.

“My brother heard some noise and stuff,’’ Sudden said.

Knowing what was in the warehouse, his brother said he “wondered if that place behind us was on fire.”

He opened the back door and saw smoke, then they looked out the front and saw Newcastle Street covered in smoke, Sudden said.

“It freaked me out,’’ he said.

He said he got his dogs out and checked on a neighbor in a garage apartment who had slept through the noise.

Clara Grammer, who lives a few houses east of the fire, said she had her drapes closed to keep the glare off TV as she watched.

“I was watching some silly serial … and I started hearing sirens,’’ she said.

Then it dawned on her that there shouldn’t be sirens in a show with a western setting so she went outside.

“It was just black wood smoke everywhere,’’ and black ash falling, she said.

Grammer said she walked up to Newcastle Street and saw a neighbor rush through the line of fire trucks and into his yard looking for his elderly mother.

“She was already out and down the street,’’ as was another older woman who lives nearby, Grammer said.

Florida Times Union

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