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November 18, 2010 Issue

Chemical leaked in downtown Wadley
Stapleton and Wrens ISO ratings dropped

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Chemical leaked in downtown Wadley

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

No injuries were reported after a chemical leaked from a train car in downtown Wadley Thursday, Nov. 11.

Wadley Fire Department Chief Bruce Logue said he received a call from Randy Miller of WB Miller Supply in Wadley around 12:24 p.m.


The store is at the railroad crossing on Main Street.

Logue said Miller called him and reported an odor and said there was a train from Norfolk Southern Corp. parked at the tracks. Logue said he told Miller to call Jefferson County EMA Director Lamar Baxley.

The placard on the tanker identified a hazardous material.

Besides the Wadley Fire Department and the county’s EMA, other agencies responding to the leak were the Jefferson County’s EMS, Gold Cross; and Emanuel County hazardous material team.

Logue said the Haz Mat code on the placard identified the material as flammable and a hazard if inhaled. People had to be evacuated from the site to 150 feet, he said.

Baxley said the material was similar to turpentine.

Spencer Wood, the Emanuel County Haz Mat team coordinator, described the odor as similar to a pulp mill.

“Multiply it by a thousand times,” He said. “It’s a liquid pulp.”

“The tank car contained turpentine, shipped as a flammable liquid,” Susan Terpay, director of public relations with the railroad company, stated in an email Monday, Nov. 15.

“Turpentine is a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from pine wood and gum,” she said.

The primary hazard is flammability, Terpay stated.

“Turpentine vapors are heavier than air, meaning that they will sink to the ground and dissipate more slowly than a lighter-than-air compound,” she stated.

“Current weather conditions at the time were clear with winds up to 5 mph. Based upon a minor vapor release, we would expect that the vapors would have dissipated fairly quickly through simple diffusion,” she said.

Terpay stated the symptoms of short-term inhalation exposure to turpentine include irritation of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract.

“Symptoms are temporary and non-recurring. Proper first aid involved getting the individual to fresh air,” she said.

Wood said there would be no fines assessed in the incident.

The scene was cleared around 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., Baxley said Monday.

Stapleton and Wrens ISO ratings dropped

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The fire chiefs in two Jefferson County cities announced the results of their recent ISO inspections, a drop in their ISO ratings.

Stapleton’s fire chief, Tony Kelly, told the city council during the council meeting Thursday, Nov. 11, the new rating, which will not be effective until Feb. 1, 2011, is a 4.


“We were a 6,” he said later in an interview.

“We would have gone to a 5; but, with the SPLOST money allowing us to buy one fire engine, one tanker and some equipment, that helped get us to a 4.

“I really want to say to the people who voted for this SPLOST, we would not have been able to meet the requirements with ISO to make this grade. I can’t say how much I appreciate people voting it in. It has really made a difference,” he said.

Kelly, who stressed the rating change goes into effect next year, said property owners should talk to their insurance companies in February.

“This affects property owners in Stapleton city limits or within 5 miles of the city limits and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant,” he said, adding that any portion of the house can be within the 1,000 feet and that counts.

Kelly said for the people who are in the fire district outside of town and have a 9, that is covered by a separate ISO inspection.

“We’re working on getting that lowered, too,” he said.

Wrens Fire Department Chief Larry Cheely said their results have given the city 3 and a 3/9.

“Inside the city limits is a 3,” he said. “The other rating is a 3/9.”

The city’s previous rating was a 4, he said, adding he did not remember the rating in the county portion of Wrens’ fire district.

“There was a lot of work done. It wasn’t all me. My staff did a lot of work and also there was a lot of groundwork over the years. The past fire chiefs and their staffs have lowered the rating,” he said.

“About 30 years ago, I think we were a 7. Then we went to a 5 about 12 to 15 years ago. Then we were a class 4 for 12 to 15 years,” Cheely said.

The city leadership and the citizens played a key role, he said.

“I think we have the city to thank for taking care of inside the city and outside the city. The city does the majority of our budgeting for our fire department. On the last SPLOST, we did get a fire engine from the special projects local option sales tax. The citizens voted for those funds and those funds came directly from the citizens in the form of 1-percent sales tax,” Cheely said.

“I’d like to thank a lot of people. I’d especially like to thank the city administrator and the mayor and city council for supporting us.

“I think it’s a pretty big deal. It has the potential to save the citizens a good deal of money. We’re going to try to save people money in the county by lowering the rate in the county,” he said.

Cheely said the department won’t have to repeat the entire process for the rating for the rest of his fire district.

“We’re going to be inspected and I expect them to test us on how much water we can flow. That means we have to be able to put a certain amount of water on a scene within a specified amount of time. They’re not going to come back unless we request it. So we’re not going to request another inspection until we’re ready,” he said.

Arty Thrift, Wrens’ city administrator said Tuesday, he had read over the ISO report.

“A lot of it is very technical. They give you points for this and points for that,” he said.

“If you just look at their charts, there are a lot of 5s and 6s out there. Most towns would probably be a 5 or a 6. There are a lot of 9s in the rural areas. There aren’t many 3s. That says a lot for our department. In the state of Georgia, there’s one class 1, there’s 60 class 3s, 129 class 4s,” Thrift said.

“The classification, ISO’s public protection classification, it plays an important role in insurance underwriting. It provides the community and fire department with a benchmark. It gives people with management responsibilities a tool to plan and budget,” he said.

“It’s all in what you want to achieve. But I think it’s an important piece of information to pay attention to. You should be able to use this data to make decisions. Either this is where we want to stay, or we want to improve. A fire department that’s a 7 may want to look and see what do to become a 6. This is a direct result of the SPLOST, a lot of it,” Thrift said.

William Toulson, an insurance agent with Bargeron Insurance Agency in Louisville, said the change in ratings could make a significant difference to property owners.

“People who live in that area should check with their agents and make sure they are going to get that correct rating shown on their policy,” he said.

“There are other factors in addition to the drop in protection class that can make a difference in premium. Those include the construction of the home, the size of the home and the age of the home. Another discount some property owners may be eligible for is a multi-policy discount, such as when they have their auto insurance with the same company,” he said.

Lee Woods, an agent with State Farm in Wrens, said the decrease in the ISO rating should benefit policy holders.

“We don’t have any projections on what it will do to our rates, but it will certainly help,” he said.

“We’re very proud of all our firefighters and everything they do to help protect each of us. Their rapid response time helps save lives as well as property. I am especially proud in regards of the ISO change of Tony Kelly and Larry Cheely. Their dedication in maintaining their equipment, training and their department records has allowed them to achieve the distinction of an ISO decrease.

“It is a phenomenal achievement for what they have done. We haven’t had a chance to crunch the numbers; but we’re excited about the prospects of savings for our clients who have fire insurance,” he said.

“Just as a comparison, the immediate downtown area of Augusta is a 2. The remaining area of Augusta is a 5. For example, National Hills, the area over by the Masters, is a 5. Columbia County doesn’t have a fire department rated lower than a 4. So as you can see, it’s quite a credit to Tony (Kelly) and Larry (Cheely),” he said.

Don Handberry, an agent with Cotton States in Louisville, said there are other factors that also effect insurance rates.

“It’s going to depend on the construction class of the property and the location relevant to the fire department, property owners should experience a rate decrease. This is based on several rating factors. There’s not a cut-and-dried formula applicable to all the properties,” he said.

Lamar Baxley, who is Louisville’s fire chief as well as the county’s EMA director said the benefits of the decrease in ISO ratings helps citizens in another way, keeping citizens and their property better protected from fire.

“It basically means they have improved the equipment and have improved the water capacity and their response calls and the service they provide to the community. They have improved the training ability. The record keeping has been greatly improved; they’ve gone to computerized record keeping. The 9-1-1 center helped. The enhanced 9-1-1,” he said.

“With all the improvements that’s done and the paging capability, they should feel safer because there’s a quicker response time. Citizens should feel better protected because we’re able to provide better service to the community. If it hadn’t been for the 1 percent sales tax, we wouldn’t have been able to get this new equipment. All of this has come together and the investment the citizens put into the community with the SPLOST is paying off,” he said.

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Last modified: November 11, 2010