Industrial fire, explosions at Brunswick chemical plant prompt evacuations, shelter-in-place orders

The fire has been contained and is expected to burn out: officials

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Residents in Southeast Georgia — the Hickory Bluff and Sanctuary Cove areas — were asked to evacuate and shelter in place after an industrial fire at the Symrise plant in Glynn County, according to Glynn County Board of Commissioners.

According to Jacksonville Fire Rescue Captain Eric Prosswimmer, the incident happened around 4 a.m. during a shift change. Only six to eight employees were there at the time and they have all been accounted for.

The fire ignited one explosion and then two more, Prosswimmer said. The main chemical involved is hydrogen peroxide pinene, commonly used in fragrances.

The plant was evacuated along with neighborhoods within a one-mile radius. Those within three miles of the plant were advised to shelter in place. Three neighborhoods were evacuated: Hickory Bluff, Royal Oaks and Satilla Shores. As of 2:50 p.m., Satilla Shores and Royal Oak residents were able to return to their homes.

The Dover Bluff area of Camden County and the south side of the Port of Brunswick were also evacuated.

Two schools within 2.3 miles of the plant were also placed under shelter-in-place orders.

One man who was working at another nearby plant at the time told News4JAX, “I could se a giant cloud of smoke forming out there, you could smell it in the air.” He continued, “I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled chlorine in your pool. It smelled like a watered down version of that.” He also said it stung his skin and eyes.

One Glynn County firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and is in stable condition, officials said. The fire has been contained and is expected to burn out.

“It was just a lot of smoke,” Keith Rathbun, a bystander, said. “We sat there for a little bit and all you could see was smoke and the fire trucks just kept rolling in, kept rolling in, and before you knew it... At that point…nobody told us what was going on. I didn’t know. None of us knew what was going on until we got inside the port here, and then the Port Authority told me what was going on.”

Kingsland Recreation Center — located behind Camden County High School — opened as a shelter, according to the Public Information Officer with the Camden County Sheriff’s Office.

It was estimated that 100 households were asked to evacuate, but no one took advantage of the shelter.

Hazmat crews from Jacksonville were spotted at the scene and were assisting Georiga fire crews. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Symrise Chemical Plant produces more than 34,000 products to more than 150 countries, according to its website. Those products include perfumes, beverages, nutritional items, oral care, probiotics and pet nutrition.

SKY4 receives aerial view of Symrise plant in Glynn County

About the Authors:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.