Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said there was “about $3 million worth of damage” at the JCG Farms feed plant in Rockmart from the explosion that killed one man and wounded five others.
The ATF’s national response team was on site Monday and officials with the Atlanta field office expect the investigation could continue for several weeks.
The ATF, the Rockmart Fire Department and the state fire marshal are working together on the investigation.
“We have resources to help in clearing the site, such as heavy machinery,” said Nero Priester, a public information officer with the ATF’s Atlanta field office.
The response team is comprised of specialists such as veteran agents, forensic mappers, dogs that can detect accelerant and engineers, Priester explained.
The $3 million worth of damage done to JCG Farms includes heavy structural damage to the warehouse, plant and offices, Priester said.
“We know there were seven workers in the plant at the time, plus a security guard,” he said. “All of these people are accounted for. One man died at the scene and five were transported to the hospital. I know one man was taken to the Grady Burn Center and was listed in serious condition (Monday).”
Justin Deems, 25, of Rockmart, was killed during the explosion that rocked the plant on Ga. 101 around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier.
Rockmart Fire Chief Todd Queen provided the names of four of the injured men — Randy Dodd, James Lentz, Dallas Holcombe and Tyler Morgan — but said he had not had a chance to complete all the reports as of Monday afternoon.
Polk County Emergency Management Director Randy Lacey said 911 operators received multiple calls about the explosion, some from at least two miles away.
“When I arrived at the scene Sunday morning, the firefighters told me that the explosion woke them up. And the department is about a mile away from the plant,” he added. “A lot of people who called into 911 said they thought it was an earthquake.”
Lacey said when he arrived on the scene, he saw the results of a “powerful explosion.” A few spot-fires were put out quickly, but one fire from a gas main burned inside the plant until the gas company arrived and shut off the supply to the building, he said.
“I was told that if this had happened during the week, there could have been about 35 people there working,” Lacey said. “I’ve worked as an emergency responder for many years in other counties, so I have seen things like this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything of this magnitude in Polk County.”
Investigators are searching for the cause of the explosion, but there is not a timeframe for when the answer will be available, Priester said.
Officials at Alabama-based JCG Farms did not return calls for comment Monday.