Fire at Tiger-Sul

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A fire broke out early on the morning of July 29 at Tiger-Sul Products’ chemical plant in Atmore.

The Atmore Fire Department was called to the scene at around 5:30 a.m. after a 911 call reported that there was a fire at the chemical plant, Chief Ronald Peebles said.

Firefighters from Atmore, and several other agencies responded to the scene, providing mutual aid.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Peebles said it took several hours to take control of the fire and smoke. The fire is currently under investigation by the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the cause is unknown. No one was injured as a result of the fire as the plant was shutdown at the time.

“We probably had the fire and smoke under control by 3-4 p.m.,” he said. “We had it down far enough that we let Alto (Products) open up at 4 p.m.”

Alto Products, a facility that runs 24 hours a day and seven days a week, was closed because of the blaze and hazardous smoke burning from the sulfur. A portion of Highway 31 from Industrial Park Road to James Road was closed to traffic for several hours.

Because it was a chemical fire, firefighters set up ladder trucks and unmanned monitors because the building was too jeopardized for an interior attack, Peebles said. An unmanned monitor is a nozzle that can be staked into the ground and shoots water in one direction.

“We eventually did have to do some interior work, but it was well after,” he said. “We had four forklifts still burning inside. We eventually did have to make an interior operation there.”

As the fire burned, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the plant.

Included in the smoke was sulfur dioxide. Firefighters utilized their hazmat equipment for the fire, Peebles said.

Peebles said a 1-mile radius was established from the plant as a shelter in place, meaning residents were encouraged to stay in their homes while they quelled the fire. CSX, which had to stop train operations, and Escambia County’s Florida fire personnel, set up air monitoring equipment in the city and at the Piggly Wiggly.

“All of the air was good everywhere it was monitored,” he said. “We had personal monitors on our belts. When you get 50 feet away from the building, in some places, it would go off. It won’t go off until it’s 15 parts per million.”

Dousing the chemical fire was quite a task, Peebles said.

The ladder truck was pulling water from the lone hydrant at the plant, and several tankers were brought in to provide water to the other trucks, he said.

“I’m very proud of my men,” Peebles said. “They handled it well. I’m proud of all of the surrounding agencies that came in for mutual aid. I think we had seven different tankers just brining water. We had one hydrant there supplying the ladder truck, and it was pumping 1,200 gallons per minute for hours. We probably pumped 600,000 to million gallons of water.”

Due to the massive amount of water, the concern then for firefighters was the run off.

Peebles said they used a front-end loader and backhoe to dig ponds on the north and south side of the plant’s property to collect the water.

“We call that damming and docking,” he said about the ponds. “On the front side, the south side on Highway31, our run off was going down the hill and into the railroad tracks. CSX had water quality testing, and it was neutral.”

Additionally, firefighters used the backhoe and front-end loader to tear into the building to put the fire out.

“There was a construction company nearby doing work, and he gave us the keys to it and told us to use it,” he said. “If it wouldn’t have been for the backhoe and the front-end loader we used, we had to tear some of the building apart with these machines to get to the fire because it was unsafe. With these parts, we tore the building a part and shot water down with areal devices to put it out.”

Peebles said the state fire marshal’s office came on Monday to conduct its investigation. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Emergency Management, and federal and state environmental agencies were in Atmore on Sunday.

Tiger-Sul Marketing Manager Usman Khalid said the company is committed to bringing back operations to the Atmore plant, but couldn’t confirm when it will commence.

Khalid said all precautions were in place for the fire.

Those who responded to the scene included the Alabama Power Co., Atmore EMS, Atmore Police Department, Atmore Public Works, Century Volunteer Fire Department, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Escambia County Florida EMS, Escambia County Florida Sheriff’s Office, Flomaton Fire Department, Lottie Volunteer Fire Department, McDavid Volunteer Fire Department, Medstar EMS, Molino Volunteer Fire Department, Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department, Perdido Volunteer Fire Department, Poarch Creek Indian Tribal Police and Fire Department, Rabun Volunteer Fire Department, Walnut Hill Volunteer Fire Department and West Escambia Utilities.