Blaze at Former S.C. DuPont Plant Deemed Suspicious

Aug. 28, 2013
There was no electricity in the building and no storms in the area when the blaze was discovered.

Aug. 27--FLORENCE, S.C. -- The cause of a fire that ripped through the former DuPont plant Sunday night is under investigation.

Florence County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Nunn said arson investigators plan to get to work on the site as soon as soon as the rubble is cooled down.

"The arson investigators will start their work as soon as they practically can," Nunn said. "They'll be conducting a cause-and-origin investigation."

Though the fire was extinguished Monday, there were still a few hot spots on Tuesday, Windy Hill Fire Chief John DeLung said. He said once those cooled, investigators could get in and begin their work.

DeLung said the fire seems suspicious as there was no electricity or activity in the building. There also were no storms in the area Sunday night, which would seemingly rule out a lightning strike.

Eric Spirtas, president of Niagara Worldwide, the company that now owns the facility, said the building that caught fire Sunday night served as a plastic chips warehouse. He said he is anxious to find out what caused the fire and will continue to assist fire officials in any way he can.

"We're assisting the fire department," Spirtas said. "We want to find out exactly why, what and how this happened. There was no electricity in that building and no activity so we don't have any information leading to how this could have happened."

Security guards on the site reported the fire just before 11 p.m Sunday. DeLung, the first on the scene late Sunday night, said flames were already showing through the roof of the building when he arrived. The front wall collapsed shortly after.

At the height of the blaze, firefighters and equipment from all 11 of Florence County's fire departments and additional crews from surrounding counties were on the scene. The fire burned through Sunday night and into Monday. Firefighters were able to contain it to one area of the building by 3 a.m. Monday but did not get it extinguished until mid-afternoon. One-third of the building was a total loss, DeLung said.

Firefighters remained at the site Monday night and Tuesday, monitoring the situation and keeping the pile doused with water.

Environmental crews were also on scene to monitor air quality and water runoff.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Jim Beasley said his agency dispatched a crew early Monday morning and later sent additional crews to the site.

Officials are worried some contaminated runoff may have escaped to the Great Pee Dee River.

"The fire continues to emit a bit of white smoke," Beasley said. "We've worked with the fire departments to build a containment dam for runoff water, but it's believed that some may have escaped to the Great Pee Dee River. DHEC's regional staff have developed a water sampling plan in response."

Air levels, on the other hand, are showing no signs of toxicity despite the large amount of smoke, Beasley said.

"So far, our air monitoring efforts have detected no hazardous levels," Beasley said. "But the plume has been quite large at times, and we will continue to monitor air quality in that area to ensure that it does not pose any danger to the nearby communities."

Copyright 2013 - Florence Morning News, S.C.

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