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Thick black smoke rose out of a Tennessee industrial park on June 21 after a fire ignited an asphalt facility.
The Fairview, Tenn. news affiliate reported a blaze erupted at the Tennessee Valley Paving Company of Williamson County, the facility of which is located adjacent to Highway 96. A tanker that holds a superheated bitumen product used as a binding solution when making asphalt concrete during road construction caught fire. The distilled petroleum product sent huge plumes of smoke into the air as it burned. Due to the nature of the fire, it was unclear whether the plant is outfitted with fire suppression equipment or a heat detector.
According to investigators, the Tennessee Valley Paving Company was not making asphalt on June 21, but that it is a common industry practice to keep the machinery and the bitumen mixture hot in preparation for production. Uncertainty of the contents of the tanker of of any chemicals used in the asphalt making process caused officials to evacuate the area surrounding Loblolly Pine Road. Highway 96 was also temporarily shut down as crews monitored the fire.
"It very well could be one of those situations where we could just let that sucker die down a bit," said Roy Russell, a lieutenant with the Fairview Police Department. "It's a little bit remote. There are no homes nearby."
Still, nearby residents were reluctant to return to their homes. Some opted to wait for hours before heading back to their residences.
"It's been nothing but a hassle since [the plant] first got here, from the dump trucks and everything – dump trucks just constantly flying up and down our road," said Jonathan Collier, a displaced resident. "It's just been nothing but a headache ever since it came in."
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.