Multi-county agencies fight Tyson Foods fire and HAZMAT leak

Due to precautionary measures, Terrell County schools will be closed for staff and students Thursday due to the fire since Tyson is in close proximity to the schools. / Alexandria Ikomoni

Flames and smoke erupted from the Tyson Foods chicken processing plant, in Dawson, Wednesday night.

Tyson Foods Public Relations Spokesperson Worth Sparkman told FOX 31 that the fire started in the docking area of the chicken processing plant. Team members in the plant were evacuated and no employee injuries were reported.

The Albany Fire Department’s HAZMAT team was requested by the Terrell County EMA Director around 9:15 p.m. due to ammonia released through Tyson Foods refrigeration lines. Through the regional response of multi-county EMA teams, AFD provided white splash guard suits, respirators and a four-man crew from Station 3 who performed a ‘Level B DECON’ to remove chemicals from six Terrell County firefighters who were exposed. All six who were exposed were stripped down, washed and tested with PH strips.

Albany Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Ambrose says that the fire was reported to be in the walls when AFD arrived on scene but was under control as of 12 a.m. Thursday. When the leak was noticed, the big tank was shut down and ammonia was released from the refrigeration lines. No plume clouds were reported. The plant was evacuated and workers were sent home.

Ambrose spoke with the Terrell County EMA Director who said that where the winds are blowing, the ammonia would not be heading towards residential areas. Ambrose adds that ammonia is a pungent smell that leaves a burning sensation in/on/around moist areas of the body (eyes, nose, lungs, crotch area and underarms). All believe that there was only a small amount of ammonia released and has been contained to a small area around the plant.

Sparkman adds that the cause of the fire is under investigation and may take awhile to complete.

Due to precautionary measures, Terrell County schools and Terrell Academy will be closed for staff and students Thursday due to the fire, since Tyson is in close proximity.

Sparkman says that the Dawson plant will not operate for the rest of this week and expects operations to resume sometime next week..

This is a developing story; stay with as more information becomes available.

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