ROGERSVILLE - In light of two recent fires at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park, the Hawkins County Commission's Safety Committee will begin looking into the possibility of imposing some restrictions and codes on park occupants.
For example, plants at Phipps Bend aren't required to install fire sprinklers. Safety Committee Chairman Bob Palmer said Thursday it's worth investigating the possibility of imposing codes requiring sprinklers and other safety steps.
"Legally I don't know if we can enact such codes, or how we would enforce them if we did," Palmer said following a Safety Committee meeting held Thursday morning. "We've got some firefighters who are concerned about Phipps Bend because they don't know what's being stored or how certain safety issues are being addressed at the different plants. We know this is going to be a long process, but we're hoping to get some of these questions answered."
The Safety Committee voted Thursday to send letters to each of the Phipps Bend plants asking them to send the county mayor's office lists of what materials are stored or kept in each plant and where.
The letters will also address the topic of imposing stricter safety codes at the park, and seek input from each plant, as well as posing the idea of each plant contributing funds toward paying for a full-time Phipps Bend fire department.
Last month a fire destroyed the First Fiber plant in Phipps Bend, and a short time later firefighters were called to another Phipps Bend plant after an intentionally set rubbish fire got bigger than expected and endangered a building.
"When you talk about establishing codes, these are the things that the firefighters are concerned about," Palmer said. "They were burning a huge pile of cardboard only a few feet from their building, and it got so hot it began to affect the outside of the building. We need to see what we can do to put a stop to dangerous activities and also make sure hazardous materials are being stored and handled properly."
Firefighters also expressed concerns during Thursday's meeting about the water supply in Phipps Bend, and what contingency plans are available should the water supply run out during a fire.
With regards to non-Phipps Bend topics, firefighters also asked the Safety Committee to consider what can be done to require mobile home parks in Hawkins County to number each residence.
Another topic discussed was claims that some rural county roads that have been paved with taxpayer money and deeded to the county have been blocked with locked chains by nearby homeowners.
Those discussions were mainly informational and are expected to come up again at future Safety Committee meetings.
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