A serious accident has occurred at a Georgia-Pacific paper mill in eastern Oklahoma. Early reports are indicating that a fire broke out at the plant, triggering an explosion. The Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service has confirmed that four workers have been hospitalized for smoke inhalation and what they called “minor trauma.” One other worker received treatment at the scene, and two firefighters suffered heat exhaustion. As of Tuesday morning, two people are still hospitalized because of their injuries.
What Happened at the Plant
The paper mill accident happened at about 10 p.m. on Monday at Georgia-Pacific’s Muskogee plant, about 50 miles southeast of Tulsa. Fire Chief Mike O’Dell revealed that the fire ignited after a hydraulic line on a forklift ruptured. Fluid from the broken line ignited once it hit the forklift’s propane tank. Now, the scene of the accident shows a burned-out building where a large plant once stood.
Once they arrived at the scene, firefighters faced a devastating and brutal fire. The plant makes paper goods such as tissues, paper plates, and toilet paper—all of which served as fuel for the aggressive fire. One worker said that he saw dust shake from the walls caused by the explosion’s force. As of Tuesday morning, firefighters were still putting out hot spots to prevent another blaze.
When commenting on the fire, Muskogee Assistant Fire Chief John Tipton revealed that it was the type of incident that frightens firefighters the most. "Luckily, that doesn't happen that often. But a fire like that will definitely tax you on your will to work here," Tipton said.
Close to 4,000 Jobs Affected
Georgia-Pacific’s Muskogee plant is the largest employer in the area. About 800 people worked at the plant and are now left to wonder what is next for them. Additionally, the explosion is expected to impact close to 3,000 contract jobs associated with the Georgia-Pacific plant. Muskogee County officials are setting up a task force to handle the number of anticipated unemployment applications and other issues. They say they are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Our Oklahoma plant explosion attorneys will continue to follow this story as more details are released by officials.