Greene County volunteer firefighters were among members from multiple fire departments assisting Thursday at the scene of a stubborn fire in the HEXPOL Rubber Compounding plant on Old State Route 34 in Jonesborough.
The initial fire call came in about 1:50 a.m. Thursday at HEXPOL Jonesborough, which makes rubber compound products.
Firefighters remained at the scene Friday. Departments from Washington, Greene and Sullivan counties helped fight the persistent blaze.
At least one HEXPOL Jonesborough employee was injured. The incident is ogoing and remains under investigation.
A Jonesborough official said that more than 20 fire departments were at the plant fire Thursday. Marty Shelton, Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department chief, said in an email that Greene County volunteer departments on scene Thursday included Tusculum, Orebank, Town of Mosheim, Sunnyside, and United.
Greene County firefighters returned Friday to the HEXPOL fire, Shelton said.
A Jonesborough official said there was an explosion in the plant before flames and billowing smoke were seen.
“TVFD crews and apparatus have returned after a long incident that is still ongoing in Jonesborough,” Shelton posted Thursday night on the fire department Facebook page.
HEXPOL Jonesborough, on Old State Route 34, is located near Limestone Creek.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Washington County emergency management officials issued a warning about HEXPOL fire runoff contaminating an area encompassing a 1-mile radius of Limestone Creek. It warned local farmers to keep their livestock away from the area of the creek.
According to a report citing company sources at rubbernews.com, a Rubber & Plastics News website, “a significant fire” began burning early Thursday at HEXPOL Jonesborough.
“Emergency protocols were immediately activated, and 22 employees were evacuated from the facility. One employee is being treated for injuries. At this time, there are no fatalities,” a company statement said. “The cause of the fire is under investigation and HEXPOL is fully cooperating with governmental officials.”
Photographs and videos from the scene show thick smoke billowing from the facility hours after the blaze started.
“Local reports indicate the fire might burn for days,” the report said.
HEXPOL Compounding is a unit of Hexpol A.B. of Malmo, Sweden.
Shelton said Friday in an email that the Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched about 5 a.m. Thursday and responded with tanker and engine trucks. Eight Tusculum firefighters were among the initial response crew.
Another crew remained in Tusculum to cover the area and be available in the event more manpower was needed in Jonesborough to swap out earlier crews.
Tusculum firefighters remained on scene until 8 p.m. Thursday.
Shelton said the fire department set up at the intersection of Old State Route 34 and West Main Street at the Jonesborough Maintenance Department to draft from a creek and fill tankers to haul water back to the fire, about half a mile away.
“An additional two sites were later added elsewhere by other departments to support the volume of tankers,” Shelton said.
“We saw tankers from all over the region with volunteers from their communities. We had as many as three tankers in position to fill at some points with others waiting to be filled. Workers used a backhoe to place dirt in the creek to dam up the water to allow a larger volume to be pulled from the creek as it pooled up deeper at the draft site,” he said.
Once Tusculum firefighters were in place after arriving, “We had the one task to fill tankers the entire time. With tankers ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 gallons and (making) multiple trips, we drafted thousands of gallons of water,” Shelton said.
Shelton said tanker trucks were needed for drafting because Jonesborough's water system was depleted from the quantity of water put on the fire.
"Hydrants were weak to nearly dry from the volume being pulled from the municipal water system," he said.
Both career and volunteer firefighters “had a long day and night working hard on a difficult incident,” Shelton said.