Crews investigating cause of massive overnight fire at Hardeevil - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Crews investigating cause of massive overnight fire at Hardeeville paper plant

(Source: Donald Roberts) (Source: Donald Roberts)
(Source: Donald Roberts) (Source: Donald Roberts)
(Source: Donald Roberts) (Source: Donald Roberts)
The paper bales that caught fire outside the plant. (Source: WTOC) The paper bales that caught fire outside the plant. (Source: WTOC)

A massive fire broke out at the Caraustar Recovered Fiber paper plant on Highway 17 and Highway 321 near Church Road in Hardeeville Wednesday night. 

Hardeeville Fire crews were dispatched to the fire around 9:40 p.m. and arrived within minutes.

Hardeeville Fire Department Fire Marshal Joey Rowell says most of the fire happened outside the building, but flames did reach inside the plant causing minimal damage to a wall inside. He said the paper bales made it harder to put the fire out. The plant produces large rolls of paper and flames got in the middle of the rolls. He says about 100 barrels went up in flames. 

"Some of the difficulties is the paper bales are tightly baled, the fire is getting in the middle of them. And then it's hard to extinguish the fire. You're having to work to get to the fire," Rowell explained. 

One firefighter sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to an area hospital for treatment. None of the plant workers were injured. 

"Business like this brings to the community. It brings to the tax roll, and it brings jobs. These kind of businesses are very important to us. They’re important to our community, financial health, and we’re sad to see they’ve had this tragedy," said Mayor Harry Williams, City of Hardeeville. 

The fire is now out. Portions of Church Road were shut down for some time while crews battled the blaze, but the road has since re-opened.

Hardeeville Fire responded along with assistance from the Bluffton Township Fire District, Jasper County Fire and Rescue, and Levy Fire.

Firefighters are still on scene monitoring hot spots. Hardeeville Fire says they will remain on scene until about midday Thursday.

The plant has been shut down as a precaution. Officials say the fire destroyed about five percent of the actual structure. They are working to determine how much product was lost. 

"Operations for the company has shut down for right now. Hopefully once we get everything cleaned up they will be able to resume in the next day or two," Rowell said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. At this time, investigators do not believe the fire was a result of foul play. We'll keep you updated once those official results are released. 

Here's a live report from the scene just before 5 a.m. Thursday morning:

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