Firefighters battle warehouse blaze in south Bibb for 21 hours

A stubborn fire at a Bibb County egg carton manufacturing plant injured two firefighters and kept crews busy for about 21 hours Sunday.

Shortly after midnight thick smoke appeared in the warehouse side of Pactiv Corporation at 7670 Airport Drive near the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, said Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins.

The company's fire brigade tried to extinguish the fire but it got out of hand, Riggins said.

A significant amount of heat is used to make the cartons that are stacked 30 to 40 feet high once they are finished. Riggins believes a hot crate stewed for a while before igniting and sending heavy black smoke throughout the large building.

When Macon-Bibb County units arrived the thick smoke prevented firefighters from finding the source of the blaze for about two and a half hours, he said.

Thermal-imaging cameras helped crews find the source of the fire and keep track of firefighters in the warehouse, Riggins said.

"I'm very, very, very glad we had those," Riggins said.

One of the injured firefighters became disoriented and suffered smoke inhalation while the other was hurt by falling crates. Both are doing fine today, Riggins said.

Eleven fire crews totaling about three dozen firefighters were called to fight the blaze, Riggins said. Firefighters were battling fatigue and needed replacements due to the duration of the fire, he said.

They managed to protect the building from sustaining significant damage although firefighters had to cut holes in the roof to allow smoke to escape, he said.

Firefighters were on the scene from just after midnight to about 9 p.m. Sunday as they had to move the heavy crates of cardboard egg cartons to make sure all the hot spots were out, he said.

"I'm so grateful to the Salvation Army. They came out and brought us a canteen to take care of the firefighters and company employees," Riggins said.