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15 firefighters hurt battling massive fertilizer warehouse fire in South Hill; crews still dousing hot spots

Fire crews were hitting hot spots and 'monitoring air in and around the neighborhood' early Sunday morning
South Hill Fertilizer Fire
Posted at 8:24 AM, Jul 07, 2024

SOUTH HILL, Va. -- Fifteen volunteer firefighters were injured battling a massive fire that broke out at a fertilizer warehouse in South Hill, Virginia, that prompted an evacuation for nearby residents on Saturday.

One of the firefighters remained hospitalized early Sunday morning, according to officials with the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department. The firefighters were taken to VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital for chemical exposure and heat exhaustion-related injuries as well as minor scrapes and burns. Their injuries were described as non-life threatening.

South Hill Fertilizer Warehouse Fire

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Fire officials had recommended a voluntary evacuation for people within half a mile of the fire, according to a joint statement at 5 p.m. from South Hill, the town's police and fire departments as well as Mecklenburg County.

"Please avoid the area," officers urged. "Unless you are in the immediate vicinity of the fire you are OK to shelter inside."

WATCH: Drone video shows crews battling massive fire at warehouse

Watch crews battling massive fire at fertilizer warehouse in South Hill

The fire started at Nutrien Ag Solutions, which offers fertilizers and other chemicals like herbicides and insecticides, in the 500 block of W Danville Street around 1:55 p.m.

Officials with the South Hill Police Department said multiple fire departments were working to get the "large commercial fire under control." As of 5 p.m., officials said the fire was 75% contained. Then around 6:15 p.m. officials said the fire was 90% contained and as of just after 8 p.m. officials said the fire had been fully contained.

Crews remained at the scene early Sunday dousing hot spots and monitoring air at the site and around the neighborhood. Officials said firefighters would be "out and around the property for several days."

South Hill Fertilizer Warehouse Fire

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Police said there was a large amount of run-off water from the fire going into area creeks.

"At this time the levels are non-hazardous but does have a strong smell," officers said. "Please avoid area creeks and this run-off."

Officials said Virginia Department of Emergency Management crews were monitoring the levels and that updates would be provided "if anything changes."

"All the Fire Departments are doing a great job but the heat is very hard on them," police said. "Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. This continues to be a major event, please continue to avoid the area."

WATCH: Massive fire burns fertilizer warehouse in South Hill

15 firefighters injured battling massive blaze at fertilizer warehouse in Virginia

Drone video from Ken Currin showed flames shooting through the roof of the building as crews doused water on the flames.

Currin said more than 150 firefighters and "countless volunteers" assisted.

"A great job was done to protect all of the multiple exposures on each side of the warehouse which was very old and full of very flammable products," Currin wrote.

Company officials said a "third-party related car accident involving a private citizen" resulted in the fire at their retail facility.

Video provided to WTVR CBS shows a propane tank, which was apparently hit by a car and then landed near the warehouse, shooting flames into the building.

Propane tank shoots flames into warehouse on Saturday, July 6, 2024 in South Hill, Virginia.
Propane tank shoots flames into warehouse on Saturday, July 6, 2024 in South Hill, Virginia.

Scott Tucker, who grew up in South Hill but now lives in Victoria, said the tank "landed perfectly in front of a window and blew flames inside."

"In that part of the building they usually keep chemicals in cardboard boxes and on pallets stacked right there," he wrote.

"An evacuation is currently in effect, and we are working with the local fire department accordingly," Nutrien Ag Solutions officials said.

A drone video shot later by Brandon Turley around 3:30 p.m. showed the entire structure's roof had collapsed as at least four firetrucks worked to extinguish the blaze.

Police said the Farrar Funeral Home on N Mecklenburg Avenue was open as a cooling location and that Red Cross assistance was also available at the site.

The fire happened as the area was under a Heat Advisory until 8 p.m. That means the heat index or feels-like temps could top 105° in spots.

"Hot temperatures and high humidity may cause heat illnesses," National Weather Service officials warned.

South Hill is a town with a population of roughly 4,700 off Interstate 85 in rural Mecklenburg County. It is about 85 miles and a 1-hour 15-minute drive from Richmond.

South Hill Warehouse Fire

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