As authorities continued to investigate the cause of a massive warehouse fire that burned for hours and shut down nearby roads and highways Friday night, reports emerged of at least three previous explosions or fires in the past 25 years at the same location.
In February 1989, two people were injured, one of them critically, in an explosion at Amrep Inc., a manufacturer of chemical products located on Industrial Park Drive that was rocked again by fire around 8 p.m. Friday.
“It’s the same company and the same place,” Marietta police officer David Baldwin said Saturday morning. “I talked to one of the firefighters and he confirmed it.”
Baldwin didn’t know what became of the critically-injured victim of the earlier blast, an Amrep worker who sustained second- and third-degree burns over 13 percent of his body, according to news accounts at the time. The explosion ripped the back wall out of a storage area and caused approximately $30,000 in damage.
It’s not the only instance of fire-related injuries at Amrep. In July 1997, two men working there were badly injured, one of them over 90 percent of his body, when fumes from a cleaning solvent ignited. Two years later in June 1999, a man suffered second-degree burns in a flash fire caused by rosin mixing with acetone that had been left at the bottom of a tank. In December 1999, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had fined Amrep $219,000 for a “recent” fire and issued “nine serious safety citations.”
There were no reports of injuries in Friday night’s fire. Huge plumes of billowing smoke was visible as far away as Cherokee County and downtown Atlanta. More than 25 trucks with crews from Marietta, Cobb, Lockheed and Dobbins fire departments spent eight hours battling the blaze before it was finally extinguished after 4 a.m. In between, “a number of explosions” were heard and felt from chemical containers inside the building, Baldwin said.
Air quality tests performed by the EPA and fire officials determined the smoke was not toxic. Still, the fire created other logistical headaches in the area. The Walker School on Cobb Parkway was evacuated, along with dozens of people from nearby businesses. Nearly two miles of U.S. 41, or Cobb Parkway, was temporarily closed between the Canton Connector and North Marietta Parkway.
By early Saturday, all major roadways had been reopened. Firefighters will remain on scene throughout the day extinguishing any hot spots and sorting through rubble as the cause of the blaze is investigated. It’s not anticipated that investigation will be completed on Saturday, Baldwin said.
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— Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this report.