$30K donation helps Ga. FD purchase a foam trailer for industrial site fires
Two Glynn County industries each gave $15k after plant fires caused evacuation orders and significant damage
By Michael Hall
The Brunswick News
GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Glynn County’s fire chief isn’t wishing for another industrial fire event, but if it happens again, at least one important piece of firefighting equipment will not require outside aid to implement.
Chief Vincent DiCristofalo accepted a $15,000 donation at last Thursday’s Glynn County Commission meeting from Georgia Pacific Brunswick Cellulose that will go toward buying a dual-tote foam trailer that is used to deploy firefighting foam to combat industrial blazes.
Georgia Pacific’s donation was matched by Pinova, which donated its $15,000 a little more than a month ago, prior to announcing its closing.
DiCristofalo said the trailer will be used for any major industrial incident that may occur in the county or the city of Brunswick. It can also be used in other areas around the region if need be.
“We so vitally need this to protect our community,” he said. “We have to be prepared for these high-risk, low-occurrence events.”
Local fire departments learned that firsthand twice in the past year. Symrise, a fragrance producer on Colonel’s Island, ignited on Nov. 7, 2022, prompting shelter-in-place orders around the county as a huge black plume of chemical-laden smoke into the air for hours.
Pinova, which is contributing to the foam trailer’s purchase, ignited on April 15, sending a similarly massive plume into the air that led to an evacuation order for the area around the plant and shelter-in-place orders on the mainland and St. Simons Island. Pinova announced in late June that it will permanently close following the damage from the fire.
In both cases, the local fire departments tasked with fire protection of those plants — the county for Symrise and the city for Pinova — lacked sufficient firefighting equipment for the intense flames the industrial blazes produced. Each fire required outside help in the form of the Jacksonville Fire Department and Georgia Forestry Commission, among several others.
DiCristofalo said he, Brunswick Fire Chief Tim White and others began meeting with local industries following the Pinova fire to discuss how to bolster their industrial firefighting capabilities. That included touring and meeting with officials at Georgia Pacific.
“They said, ‘Whatever we can do to be good partners, we are going to do,’” he said.
The recent donations showed the industries meant what they said, DiCristofalo said.
The foam trailer will be a boon to protect a unique area where urban and suburban areas often exist side-by-side to industrial areas.
“We have to be prepared to protect the community and for all the hazards that exist here,” he said.
That is why a Georgia Pacific spokesperson C.J. Drake said the pulp mill was eager to help. Brunswick Cellulose general manager Chuck LaPorte’s team reached out to the local first responders to determine how best to support the local first responders following the Pinova fire.
“As a result of this outreach, local first responders were invited to the mill to learn about our operations, internal firefighting capabilities and physical layout,” Drake said. “They also met members of our plant emergency organization. The PEO consists of mill employees, currently numbering 44, who are specially trained and equipped to respond to fires and other emergencies on mill property.”
That visit led to the donation, matcing the $15,000 from Pinova, that will play a crucial role in industrial firefighting. DiCristofalo said a recent event in New Jersey in which two firefighters died in an automotive container at a port only drove home the point even more.
“This will enable us to rapidly put into play a large volume of foam in the case of an industrial fire,” he said.
The Brunswick Fire Department also this week was the benefactor of industrial firefighting equipment in the form of a donation from Logistec, which operates at the Georgia Ports Authority’s East River Terminal, to purchase two professional-grade drones that will provide views firefighters couldn’t otherwise see during an industrial fire.