The fire broke out at AmRep, a Marietta-based company that makes chemicals for aerosols, liquids and lubricants, said Officer David Baldwin with Marietta Police.
Baldwin said the fire was first reported by a patrolling officer at about 6:30 Friday evening after he saw the building completely engulfed in flames. No injuries have been reported, he said, and a cause of the fire was not determined by press time.
He did not know the size of the building, but called it “huge.”
About 25 units from both Cobb and Marietta were working the blaze, as well as two foam-spraying trucks from Lockheed-Martin.
Lindsey Thompson, with the city of Marietta, said traffic was slowed on Interstate 75 Friday night because of reduced visibility caused by fire and smoke.
Baldwin said about 200 people in the surrounding area, including the Walker School, were evacuated, but no residential areas were affected.
He said Cobb Parkway was closed between the Canton Road Connector and North Marietta Parkway.
Drivers parked at the Allgood Road QuikTrip left their cars to gather along Cobb Parkway and watch the thick black smoke rising into the sky near the Walker School.
Kenara Dixson, a fifth-grader at Norton Park Elementary School, watched the fire with her mother. Dixson said they first noticed it while shopping at Wal-mart.
“When we were at Wal-mart by the Big Chicken we saw big fire, flames. Something is burning up,” Dixson said.
Dallas Paris of Marietta, a concert promoter, stood nearby.
Paris said he was driving back from Atlanta when he first saw the smoke.
“I just noticed this giant plume of smoke here, hovering over Marietta,” Paris said.
Aside from last year’s Texas fertilizer plant explosion, Paris said he’s never seen anything like it.
“I definitely saw flames shooting up at least 100 feet in the air,” he said.
Brenda Rhodes, who lives off Sandy Plains Road in Marietta, rents warehouse space on Industrial Park Drive for her nonprofit, Simple Needs Georgia, which assists people who are homeless.
Rhodes parked at the QuikTrip and walked north along Cobb Parkway to try to get a better look at where the smoke was coming from and to see if it was her building.
When she attempted to cross the road, police officers ordered her back to the west side.
Rhodes said she received a Nixle alert at about 8:30 p.m. from the Marietta Police Department.
“My friend who lives just up the road at the corner of Allgood where it turns into Scufflegrit, she heard the explosions,” Rhodes said. “I tried to get up the roads. I couldn’t, so I parked down there and walked up. Where I live, as soon as I came out of my subdivision I couldn’t believe that it was that big and that far and that billowy.”
Close to midnight, Baldwin said fire crews were moving back to safe distances while aerial trucks were constantly pouring water on the blaze.
“(The chemicals are) obviously causing the fire to burn hot, and because there’s a lot of pressurized containers inside the building … they’re worried about those containers rupturing, which would cause further explosions and they’re obviously worried about the firefighters and other structures.”
Baldwin said fumes from the fire were not toxic.
He predicted it would not be until daybreak before the fire was contained, if not put out altogether. He did not have an estimate for when roads would be reopened, but said it was possible people who work in the area would not be able to get to their jobs today.
— Jon Gillooly contributed to this story