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Massive Morrow fire will burn itself out

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Fire rages at an outside storage area at Tensar Corp. Wednesday afternoon on Citizens Parkway in Morrow.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Fire rages at an outside storage area at Tensar Corp. Wednesday afternoon on Citizens Parkway in Morrow.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

Dozens of Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services personnel battled a petroleum-based blaze at a Morrow manufacturing company Wednesday afternoon, as nearby businesses were evacuated, traffic was re-routed and residents were urged to avoid the area because of thick, black smoke.

No injuries were reported in the fire at Tensar Corp., a company that makes plastic-based materials for retaining walls and erosion control, said Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke. Periodic popping explosions were likely large rolls of plastic burning, she said.

Chief Jeff Hood said the fire will be allowed to burn itself out. Feilke said firefighters will likely be on the scene overnight. Company officials said their main concern is the safety of employees, and that they were pleased that none of the 85 workers at the plant was injured in the fire.

"We go through evacuation drills so everyone knows what to do," said Tensar Site Manager Brian Connelly. "This fire started at the back corner of the plant and spread quickly. We evacuated quickly, and the fire department showed up and did a fantastic job."

Company executive, Don Metzler, said the burning materials are "not ordinarily" highly flammable.

"But once it gets started, it is hard to get out," he said. "The fire department is successfully marching the fire away from the building. Our people are safe. What's inside is inventory, and we can remake inventory."

The fire started about 2 p.m., on Citizens Parkway, off Ga. 54, in Morrow. Billows of black smoke were reportedly seen in downtown Atlanta, some 15 miles north of Morrow. Feilke urged residents to close windows and doors and avoid the area.

"This fire started in an outdoor storage area, and what is burning is petroleum-based materials," Battalion Chief Feilke said. "That's what is causing the thick, black smoke that is not good for you to breathe."

Hood said the call came in as a grass fire, but the cause is under investigation. "The fire had a head start on us before we ever got here," he said.

Dozens of spectators gathered along Citizens Parkway, west of Ga. 54, some taking photographs, before Clayton County police officers cleared the area because of the hazardous smoke. Traffic was re-routed as roads in the area were shut down.

"Jonesboro Road [Ga. 54] from I-75 to Battlecreek Road has been shut down, and Mt. Zion Road at Tara Boulevard to Mt. Zion Boulevard has also been shut down," said Feilke. "We are advising people in a 1-mile radius to shelter in place, meaning they should stay inside with doors and windows closed."

Officials with the state and federal environmental agencies were on hand Wednesday to address any health concerns, and the Clayton County Emergency Operations Center was activated to help residents with issues related to the smoke.

Anyone who needs help, can call the center, at (678) 610-4718.