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, partial evacuations in the are due to chemical smoke concerns, and representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the federal Environmental Protection Agency investigating the blaze.
Calhoun Deputy Fire Chief Terry Mills said his crews arrived on the scene 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, and then later the Gordon County and Bartow County fire departments were called in to help.
All roads, save for a small section of Oak Street, had been reopened by early Friday evening.
Residents from the Calhoun Housing Authority apartments on Edwards Avenue were evacuated with help from the transportation department of Calhoun City Schools, and 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 out of precaution.
Members of the state EPD and the federal EPA are in Calhoun investigating the fire.
Georgia EPD Communications Director Kevin Chambers said that 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."
Dawn Harris Young, the Lead Public Affairs Specialist for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, said the federal EPA came to Calhoun to assist with air monitoring. According to Young, work was "in the process of starting air monitoring activities at the plant and in the community" at 12:30 p.m.
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 cancelled.
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.
The Calhoun-Gordon County Library will be closed Friday as well.
The Calhoun Fire Department is still at the scene of the blaze at DHM Adhesives, 509 S. Wall St. Firefighters from Gordon and Bartow counties are also assisting with the fire, according to Calhoun Fire Department Deputy Chief Terry Mills.
According to Mills, the first call reporting the blaze came in at 1:15 a.m. and first responders were on the scene by 1:20 a.m. Mills also stated that one individual was injured during the fire. No firefighters were injured.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is on the scene after receiving a call from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division early Friday morning.
Joni Harbin of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce said there is a hazardous chemical fire on Wall Street near Oak Street and that officials are concerned about air quality in the downtown area. She said residents have been advised to stay in doors.
Calhoun resident Susan Howard reported she was evacuated from her home on Edwards Ave. at around 5:30 a.m. Nicole Davis, who works at the Circle K convenience store near DHM Adhesives, said shoppers told her their eyes were burning from the intensity of the smoke and smell.
The city school transportation department is assisting with the evacuation of elderly residents in the area. Calhoun First Baptist Church has a shelter for those who have been evacuated.
Officials say portions of downtown roads have been closed to traffic including South Wall Street from about Prater Ford to Piedmont Street, and that residents should avoid the downtown area if possible. Both Apache Mills and Bentley Dye Services closed their businesses voluntarily on Friday out of precaution.
Gordon County Schools are unaffected by the fire and are in session as usual today.
Amy Parker of the school system provided the following statement:
"Gordon County Schools has been in communication with public safety officials concerning the fire in Calhoun that caused Calhoun City Schools to close due to air quality issues. Officials have indicated that all of our school campuses are safe, and we will operate schools on a regular schedule today. However, we will monitor air quality throughout the day and notify families of any changes to the schedule."