CALHOUN — An industrial fire that started at about 1:15 a.m. Friday at DHM Adhesives resulted in the injury of one worker, the closure of all Calhoun City Schools for the day, as well partial evacuations of the downtown area because of chemical smoke concerns.
Calhoun Deputy Fire Chief Terry Mills said his crews arrived at the plant’s location at 509 S. Wall St. five minutes after the initial 911 call. The shift that had just gotten off service was recalled to duty, followed by the rest of the city’s firefighters. Later Gordon County and Bartow County fire departments were called in to help.
South Wall Street remained closed between Piedmont Street and near Prater Ford early Friday.
Mills was unable to say when those roads might be reopened. Crews were still spraying water onto the mill from South Wall and Oak streets.
Residents from the Calhoun Housing Authority apartments on Edwards Avenue were evacuated with help from the transportation department of Calhoun City Schools. Calhoun First Baptist Church opened their doors to offer shelter to those who had been asked to leave their homes.
Mills also said that Apache Mills and Bentley Dye closed their businesses for the day voluntarily just as a precaution.
Representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the blaze.
Georgia EPD Communications Director Kevin Chambers said the state agency arrived on the scene about 30 minutes ago, at which time fire operations were in the “mop up” stage.
“That means the fire was almost out and they were just hitting the hot spots. There is an environmental clean-up contractor onsite there addressing any run-off that might occur,” Chambers said. “The closest tributary is Oothcalooga Creek, which I am told is fine. The waterway isn’t impacted and there has been no impact to fish or environment.”
Mills said both agencies were concerned about smoke in the area from the fire.
“As you can see, it’s bad,” he said.
Mills also said runoff from the scene was a concern due to the chemicals used by DHM Adhesives, and that the fire department called in Marion Environmental to help contain the water flowing away from the building.
Jennie Coker, school and community relations director for the school system, sent out an alert just after 6:30 a.m. Friday notifying the public of the move to close schools.
The schools system later announced via social media that Calhoun High School’s band and football team will report to the school this evening for the Sonoraville game. The school’s debate team will also gather together to attend an out-of-town tournament. All other after school activities and practices are canceled.
City schools Superintendent Michele Taylor said that while they regret having to close the schools, she feels like it was the right decision.
“After consulting with safety officials, we felt it was in the best interest of all of our students and staff to stay clear of the hazardous chemicals,” Taylor said.