Brunswick warehouse still smoldering after wood pellets burst into flames overnight

Cause of fire described as spontaneous combustion of wood pellets

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Wood pellets burst into flames inside a warehouse at the Port of Brunswick on Sunday evening, leading to a fire that burned into the next day, authorities said.

Firefighters in coastal Georgia continued pumping water throughout Monday on the warehouse, and that continued throughout the evening.

Crews were first called around 8 p.m. Sunday about the fire, and News4Jax received a video shortly after 10:30 p.m. of the roof of the warehouse collapsing.

“I just saw a lot of trucks and lights and action,” resident Laurie Lohne said. “I’m just a little about a block away so it was I had to come down and see what’s happening down here.”

The incident blew out the water main, according to Savannah Fire Department’s special operations chief. Water was being pumped out of the river to fight the fire. News4Jax was told the fire suppression system in the warehouse didn’t have water running to it.

The fire was the result of spontaneous combustion of the wood pellets, according to Alex Eaton, director of the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency.

Biofuel company Logistec of Montreal Canada -- the owner of the warehouse, which makes wood pellets used in home stoves as well as some industrial furnaces -- sent a statement Monday morning, saying the fire was the result of a “smoldering event, resulting from the build-up of heat within the piles of wood pellets.”

“No one was injured and there is no risk to the neighboring homes,” wrote Marie-Chantal Savoy, vice president of Logistec Corporation. “We want to thank the Brunswick and neighboring fire departments that responded to the incident.”

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Warehouse fire in Brunswick, Ga.

A large fire destroyed two warehouses at the same location in July 2015.

RELATED: I-TEAM: Site of Brunswick warehouse blaze has history of fires

Amy Pavlou, who works at a small church that lies only feet from the site, thought about that fire when she spotted smoke coming from the facility Monday morning.

“At first I thought it was just gas, you know, so when I came up and I saw the smoke I was like, ‘Oh no, not again,’” Pavlou said. “It seems I missed the worst of it though. I’m just coming in this morning.”

Susan Babbitt said she’s lived nearby for awhile, and has dealt with a fire at the warehouse before. She said the last time, she had to evacuate but had no place to go.

“The entire street both sides had to be evacuated, so we stayed on the street corner for more than 12 hours until it was clear,” Babbitt said, recalling the previous fire.

On Sunday, she had to evacuate again -- this time, with a place to go: a new home.

“We technically weren’t supposed to move into this home until June and the landowner said, ‘No, come on in.’ So we felt very fortunate,” she said.

The neighborhood surrounding the warehouse was still dealing with smoky air on Monday.

The smoke was a breathing issue outside and also in Chris Murray’s nearby home, where he said his air conditioning system was likely getting gummed up with all the smoke.

“Heard the explosion, saw the smoke, and right away I knew the fire pellet warehouse blew up,” Murray said.

Michael Cooper said his 82-year-old mother’s house feet away from the warehouse is sealed well, which helped cut down the smoke inside, but that the smoke has been “pretty ghastly.”

“She’s pretty feisty. She lived a long time for a good reason. She’s doing OK, but she’s had kind of a rough day though,” Cooper said of his mother.

Cooper said police asked them to evacuate and they left for a few hours, but there has been a lot of noise since they returned.

“I know they’re working hard back there,” he said.

Glynn County Fire Rescue and the Brunswick Fire Department were aided by crews from Jekyll Island and Brantley, Camden, Chatham and McIntosh counties and the city of Savannah.

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