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Ga. FDs reimbursed $37K for turnout gear damaged in chemical plant fire

Turnout gear worn in the Brunswick plant fire has been rendered useless due to the chemicals involved


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By Michael Hall
The Brunswick News

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Pinova is reimbursing area fire departments for damages to equipment and overtime in the aftermath of a massive fire at the plant on April 15.

The Glynn County Commission on Thursday accepted a check for $37,560.74 from the wood resin-producing company.

Fire chief Vincent DiCristofalo said the money will be used to replace damaged turnout gear and a five-inch, large-capacity hose. Turnout gear is the equipment firefighters wear when actively fighting a fire.

“They have taken care of any equipment that was damaged,” DiCristofalo said. “They’re doing that for all the departments that sustained damages.”

More than a dozen fire departments and emergency agencies responded to the fire at 2801 Cook St. The blaze burned for hours, sending a thick black plume of smoke over the marshes and St. Simons Island and prompting shelter-in-place and evacuation orders.

“The city and fire officials showed up when we needed them most and all parties worked together to contain the fire,” said Ron Kurtz, senior director of operations at Pinova. “We have been working through the costs together and intend to reimburse the county and city for materials and equipment used.”

The Brunswick Fire Department, which is tasked with primary fire protection duties at the plant, will be reimbursed for damaged turnout gear and also for overtime, of which Brunswick fire chief Tim White said there was plenty.

“We basically had a whole second shift on with the shift that was on duty at the time,” White said. “Then for three or four weeks after the fire, we had people out there monitoring it.”

White said the final bill is still being tallied by the city department.

Some turnout gear local firefighters wore during the fire was rendered useless either because of chemicals and substances that were burning or that were used to put out the fire, White and DiCristofalo said.

DiCristofalo also said he has been impressed with Pinova’s efforts after the fire to ensure that any damages the blaze caused to firefighting equipment are replaced.

“They are doing their absolute best to be good community partners,” he said.

The plant, which produces a terpene resin from pine stumps, has not operated since the April 15 fire. White said staff at the plant has been doing a thorough investigation of all processes and equipment before it begins operating again. Pinova employs about 230 people.

“We’re on standby to help any way we can,” White said.

Kurtz said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and that they are working with multiple government agencies to understand what happened and to ensure the safety of employees and the community going forward. They warned the investigation will not be a speedy process.

“Pinova is still conducting a thorough investigation and is working closely with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, city and county fire departments and other government agencies to identify what may have caused this incident,” Kurtz said in a statement Thursday. “At this point, we are not able to confirm the time needed, or the ability to repair the damaged parts of the plant. Neither can we project a timeline for the safe restart of the remaining parts of the plant. The health and safety of our employees and the local community is of utmost importance to us.”

The fire first sparked early on April 15 and was put out quickly by Brunswick firefighters. As the fire squads went to restock their firefighting equipment at around 2 p.m., the fire reignited, this time more intensely. It burned until nearly 10 p.m. and required firefighting foam applications from the ground and the air to extinguish.

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