Photo by Captain Phil Norton/Rockdale County FD
A huge cloud formed over the burning warehouse, which housed 125 tons of dry chlorine pellets.
Conyers, GA, May 25, 2004 – A massive warehouse fire at the BioLab Co. caused over $25 million in damage and forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 people. The 260,000-square-foot metal warehouse contained 125 tons of dry chlorine pellets.
At 4:24 A.M., a Rockdale County sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol asked the dispatch center whether it had received any calls reporting a huge cloud forming in the area of BioLab. The dispatchers reported they had not. Seconds later, the deputy reported, “This is a massive fire.”
More than 150 firefighters from Rockdale County and neighboring areas battled the fire. It is estimated that nearly 10 million gallons of water were pumped during firefighting operations. During the 36-hour evacuation, nearly 600 people sought shelter in evacuation centers and fewer than 100 civilians were treated in hospitals for exposure to the smoke and fumes.
Initial reports indicated that the fire started with a variety of chemical reactions. More than 2,000 fish, crabs, frogs and other aquatic life were killed by the water runoff. Fourteen million dollars’ worth of products, including eight million pounds of chlorine-based swimming pool sanitizers, were destroyed.
—Jay K. Bradish