Georgia-Pacific Says They Will Rebuild After Muskogee Plant Fire

Wednesday, May 15th 2019, 5:39 pm
By: Amy Kauffman

Georgia-Pacific said they will rebuild the part of their Muskogee plant destroyed by fire Monday night. Company leaders are looking at the damage so they can decide what to do next.

Officials say the fire at the paper mill in injured five workers and left two firefighters with heat exhaustion.

The damaged part of the plant is where they make a lot of the paper products get ready for distribution. It's the part of the plant most impacted by fire, but the company leaders say it's just a small part of their operation, and they plan to get it back up and running as quickly as possible.

Muskogee Chamber President D.J. Thompson says Georgia-Pacific has a big impact on the local economy. That's why community and business leaders are rallying around the company. 

"They are a large part of our community, and we don't want that to go away," Thompson said.

"They make such an impact on the community through volunteerism and their donations, their philanthropic efforts - so they are very important to Muskogee."

Georgia-Pacific's fire brigade is still watching for hot spots as company leaders figure out their next steps. They do plan to rebuild, but most importantly, tell me they're thankful employees made it out safely.

Related Story: Muskogee Leaders Working To Help Thousands Affected By Georgia Pacific Fire 

"Machines and buildings can be replaced. People can't," said Tom Strother, Public Affairs Officer for Georgia-Pacific.

Strother said some employees went back to work Wednesday, but because the plant is not fully up and running right now, other employees are off their regular pay cycle.

"Our commitment to employees is to try to resolve this as quickly as we can. We want to do it quickly and safely so we can bring folks back to work."

Because Georgia Pacific is such a big company, other facilities are able to fill the void for the products the Muskogee plant would normally produce, so customers buying products shouldn’t be feeling the impact — but company leaders say they appreciate the community’s support now more than ever. 

"We’ve just been overwhelmed with folks wanting to help," Strother said. 

D.J. Thompson, Muskogee Chamber president, said "they would do that for anybody, so it's very encouraging to see that we have that kind of people living here in Muskogee."

Georgia-Pacific won't know how long it will take to get back to normal operations until they finish their damage assessment.