our opinion: Recent events spotlight previously discussed concerns

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2007

Only a week ago, Demopolites were awestruck by billowing black smoke rising to the heavens from what was later labeled by the Demopolis Fire Department as a polishing pond fire at the recently closed Southern Pride Catfish Company&8217;s processing plant off of U.S. Highway 43.

According to the department, firefighters arrived within four minutes of relieving the initial

call and battled the blaze for three hours. The department also noted that the fire fight was a joint effort.

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The group was assisted by the Alabama Forestry Commission, who provided bull dozier equipment lest a barrier wall need be created, the Old Spring Hill Volunteer Fire Department and Alabama Power.

We feel that the fire department reacted to a serious situation with the utmost professionalism. We also feel that the fire once again raises several issues on public safety in Demopolis.

A number of residents greeted by sight responded by getting in their vehicles and trying to catch a glimpse of the cause of the column of smoke. While the fire was not a HAZMAT issue or necessarily a safety concern to residents, it could have been.

Near the burning pond sits Dixie Gas Pipeline, to which gas lines were turned off during the blaze. Luckily the fire didn&8217;t spread and ignite the site, producing a much more serious issue.

The city council has recently talked about plans to upgrade their warning systems for incidents like this, or even more serious, yet from all the talk no real action seems to have taken place.

Another issue once again brought to the forefront by this incident is the question of Demopolis&8217; HAZMAT capabilities. If this was a different situation, would the fire department have the capabilities to handle a chemical blaze of such a magnitude, or would such a reaction be dependent on the arrival of equipment from Choctaw County?

We think the council should consider again taking up these issues and staying the course until they are resolved.