A storage shed at the Blount County Farmers Co-Op in Oneonta caught on fire Tuesday morning. No one was injured in the blaze.
Officials were concerned about the fire involving chemicals, since pesticides and fertilizers were kept in the building that erupted into flames. The fire broke out in the storage shed behind the co-op. Some witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion before the fire.
"Well I heard 'pow, pow' like a stick of dynamite. I
just got out of the shower. I looked out my back door seeing black smoke
rolling and everything," Rodney Frazer said.
Officials say the explosions could have been propane tanks inside the shed.
"No reported injuries. Our firefighters worked the
perimeter. There were some explosions but not major explosions," Oneonta City Manager Ed Lowe said.
A few businesses near the co-op, located at 810 Avenue East, were evacuated due to the fire. Residents of an elderly assisted living facility across the street from the fire were told to stay inside.
Oneonta officials shut down a couple blocks of Highway 75 past Highway 231, but reopened Highway 75 around 1:30 p.m.
[SLIDESHOW: Photos from the scene of the fire]
The fire began around 10:45 a.m. and firefighters from two city departments and two area departments responded within about seven minutes.
Firefighters put up a water curtain to prevent the flames from spreading. Black smoke plumes could be seen rising from the building for miles.
"Our main concern right now, it was a chemical fire in the
structure. We are trying to contain those chemicals," Lowe said.
Officials say all of the chemicals kept inside the storage shed were registered with the Blount County EMA.
The most recent report submitted by the co-op to the EMA lists the following chemicals: ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium phosphate, potassium manganese sulfate, calcium carbonate and potassium chloride. The EMA says that list is not necessarily an accurate representation of the chemicals that may be housed inside the building today.
In an effort to protect the water supply, the city utilities used a back hoe to dam a creek where some of the water from fire fighters ran off into the creek.
"Our major concern is runoff. We have put a lot
of water into the location. We have public works damming up drainage ditches. ADEM is here to monitor
the process," Lowe said.
The exact cause of the fire remains unknown. The fire is under control and firefighters are monitoring the situation.
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