DHEC: No hazardous chemical in Hartsville fertilizer plant fire smoke; some streets reopen
Tue, 15 Feb 2011 00:39:16 GMT —
The Agrium U.S. Fertilizer plant in Hartsville was destroyed by fire Monday night, leading to evacuations of nearby residents.
DHEC is on scene monitoring the air quality. The regional office of the EPA is on scene with more equipment. Hazmat teams are also on scene.
Adam Myrick with DHEC says they did not detect any hazardous chemicals in the smoke. They do not believe there is a threat to public health. The chemicals at the plant were a nitrogen based fertilizer, sulfur, and a phosphate based fertilizer.
Some streets in the city are blocked off. They're directing traffic around the area of the fire. They've reopened some of the streets, but portions of North 5th Street remain closed. Emergency crews are asking people to avoid the area.
At about 10 p.m., officials on the scene of a Hartsville fertilizer plant fire held a news conference. Adam Myrick from DHEC, Lt. Brian Rudick with the Hartsville Police Department, Capt. Andy Locklair with the Darlington County Sheriff's Office, and Hartsville Mayor Mel Pennington all gave updates on the situation.
Rudick said as of about 10 p.m., the fire was contained, but still burning. The fire was called in at 6:47 p.m. at Agrium U.S. Fertilizer Plant on Society Avenue in Hartsville. Fire had engulfed the building by the time firefighters arrived. As a result of the fire, part of Sonoco's Wood Burning Yard which is nearby caught fire, but that fire is under control. The plant is off of North 5th Street across the lake from the Sonoco plant.
Locklair said a voluntary evacuation is underway from Carolina Avenue to Patrick Highway, including the Alphabet Hill Community. While the evacuations are voluntary, they are strongly advised.
The American Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at the TB Thomas Sports Center on Washington Street. As of 12:45am Tuesday, there were 72 people at the shelter. They had 20 cots set up and were waiting on 20 more from Florence.
J Michaels Restaurant in Hartsville took carloads of food to the shelter for the evacuees.
Witnesses reported numerous explosions during the fire. According to Rudick, those were gas valves blowing off and creating that big boom.
50 to 60 people work at plant, which is considered a major employer in Hartsville. There were only 7 employees inside at the time of the fire. They all escaped without injury.
A worker tells NewsChannel 15 the fire started in the breakroom. He says a supervisor tried to put it out, but within five to seven minutes it had spread from one end of the plant to the other.
The Red Cross is also working on feeding the more than 200 firefighters working the fire. Those emergency crews came from all over Darlington County.
Information is still coming into NewsChannel 15. We'll have the latest tonight on NewsChannel 15 beginning at 5am on Good Morning Carolinas with live updates from the scene and here on CarolinaLive.com