Investigator from state fire marshal’s office joins probe of Byron fire

bpurser@macon.comMay 3, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- An investigator from the state fire marshal’s office is working with Byron firefighters in an effort to determine the cause of Thursday night’s fire at a Southern Perfection Fabrication building.

Fire Chief J.D. Mosby said Friday he remains hopeful investigators will be able to get to the bottom of what was behind the 7 p.m. blaze. The fire resulted in the precautionary evacuation of a nearby subdivision and minor injuries to three firefighters who were treated and released from Peach Regional Medical Center, said Dan Varga, public information officer for the Byron Fire Department.

More than 80 firefighters from the Byron, Peach and Crawford fire departments battled the fire that took about 90 minutes to get under control. The building that burned housed administrative offices, a welding section and a paint booth, Varga said. Paint and paint thinners were housed inside the building, he said.

Located at 232 Ga. 49, the more than 30-year-old company does custom metal fabrications. Owners Gordon and Jacque Hale could not be reached for comment Friday. Operations were not expected to be impacted by the fire.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Southern Perfection Fabrication Holdings Inc. with 15 serious violations -- some of which were fire safety-related -- and the company agreed to a negotiated fine of $16,380. But it is not clear whether any of those citations were related to the building that burned or whether any of the violations had widespread application to employees in all buildings.

Serious violations are defined as there being “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known,” according to a May 3, 2012, OSHA release.

According to the release, a complaint led to a November 2011 inspection of the metal fabrication shop, which uncovered violations including, but not limited to, “exposing workers to combustible residues and flammable liquids in the spraying and (powder) coating areas without adequate precautions to prevent fires and explosions.”

Varga said the powder coating areas are housed in another building than the one that burned. He and Mosby both said there were not familiar enough with the OSHA findings to comment on them.

The violations, according to the release, included “failing to train workers on the use of fire extinguishers; periodically inspect fire extinguishers; conduct air sampling in the powder coating area where excessive amounts of airborne particles exceeded the permissible exposure limit; assess the need for personal protective equipment; develop a hearing conservation program; limit exposure to noise hazards; provide a written respiratory protection program; train on the use of a respirator; provide written hazard communication and respiratory protection programs, and train workers in the use of personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, face shields, protective gloves and clothing when performing powder coating operations.

Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office, said the fire remains under investigation.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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