Macon Ready: 5th Wave explosion a Macon-Bibb test of preparedness

Emmitsburg, Md. -- One might not think an explosion that cost a movie production company $200,000 in damages in downtown Macon would be a good example of preparedness.

But Macon-Bibb County leaders and FEMA representatives at the Emergency Management Institute got the backstory Tuesday morning on how extra precautions prevented a greater disaster during the filming of the 5th Wave.

Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation Director Steve Lawson and Assistant Fire Chief Shane Edwards had several preparation meetings in the weeks before the filming.

Filmmakers and the explosives technician initially led them to believe there would only be a small fire from propane tanks and a simulated explosion using hydraulic compression cylinders to blow from a bus parked on Cotton Avenue, which was made to look like a post-apocalyptic city.

“Every meeting we had diagrams of where the blast radius was going to be,” Lawson said.

As a precaution, a couple of firefighters were stationed on top of downtown buildings in case a stray ember drifted up.

Edwards, who was perched atop the Macon-Bibb annex building with Lawson, got an uneasy feeling a couple of hours before the “explosion” which was to be the last scene of local filming.

He called in a couple of downtown fire engines to standby, a move that likely saved downtown buildings from going up in flames when a huge fireball erupted.

Buildings shook and windows shattered as flames shot up and over buildings. Embers were burning on roofs, window ledges and flying flames ignited trash on the set in an alley.

“Thanks to Shane Edwards,” Lawson said. “If he hadn’t gone above and beyond and put those people where they needed to be, we would have lost some buildings down there.”

Fire crews on the ground were able to put out the flames in about 15 minutes.

“That’s a prime example. It doesn’t matter how much you plan an event, it can go wrong in a split second,” Edwards said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.

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