Macon firefighter recovering from injury in Pactiv blaze

lfabian@macon.comMay 7, 2013 

Macon-Bibb County firefighters work to extinguish a fire May 1 at the Pactiv packaging plant at the airport industrial park plant.

LIZ FABIAN — lfabian@macon.com

A Macon-Bibb County firefighter is recovering at home after back surgery Friday to repair a herniated disc he sustained while fighting last week’s fire at a packaging plant near Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

Josh Brewer was using a heavy fire rescue saw to cut into a smoldering trailer parked at the loading dock of Pactiv Advanced Packaging Solutions on May 1.

Brewer was wearing an air pack that weighed about 40 pounds and was lifting the 30-pound saw over his head, said his mother, Gail Daniels.

“About an hour later, he could hardly move,” she said.

Assistant Fire Chief Shane Edwards confirmed that Brewer was hurt at the scene while twisting in an awkward position with the saw.

“He put it down and kept on working and probably aggravated some things,” Edwards said.

Daniels said Brewer was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center of Central Georgia and discovered the disc was crushing a nerve root.

A follow-up visit to the doctor will determine when he can return to work, she said.

Another firefighter was treated at the scene for issues related to his blood pressure.

After taking his medication, that firefighter returned to fighting the blaze, Edwards said.

Chief Marvin Riggins and Edwards went back to the packaging plant Monday to walk through rubble with an operations manager from the company’s home office in Illinois. The visit was to look for ways to improve fire safety in the future. The exact origin of the fire still has not been determined. It is believed to have started with smoldering egg cartons stacked warm from production.

With egg crates in piles 15 feet high, firefighters had to travel through narrow paths in the large building to find the fire.

“It just jumped from pallet to pallet and we never could get into the middle where the fire was,” Edwards said.

Most of the building sustained heavy fire damage except for the back end of the plant.

The chiefs and the Pactiv official discussed making wider paths through the building to allow better access for fighting fires, he said.

“It looks like they’ll build that plant back and expand,” Edwards said.

Tori Berndt, communications manager at the headquarters in Illinois, said the company was not issuing any public information.

“We have nothing to share at this point,” Berndt said Tuesday afternoon.

The fire was a topic at Monday’s Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority meeting.

Terry Schwindler, manager of business and industry at the Macon Economic Development Commission, said Pactiv will continue to pay workers. The company has 216 full-time employees and more than 40 part-time or temporary workers.

The Macon facility was one of the company’s most productive plants, she said.

Stephen Adams, project manager for the authority, said Tuesday: “Our team has been working with their team making sure they have everything they need to work through this.”

Pactiv management has been using meeting space at the airport, he said.

Staff writer Linda Morris contributed to this report. To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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