About 800 people work at Georgia Pacific but the company impacts nearly 3,000 jobs across the community. That's why city and county leaders say they'll do everything they can to help with recovery.
“We have everyone lined up ready to act,” said Muskogee County Commissioner Ken Doke.
Muskogee city and county leaders along with the state and federal government are forming a task force so they are ready to respond to the situation if needed. They say at this point, they are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
“I was in that room when it happened and I thought well that was weird,” said Doke.
Doke can see Georgia Pacific from his front yard and says the explosion rattled his windows Monday night. That’s when he went over and found part of the plant fully engulfed.
“It’s not just that building and the history and things like that. It’s also all those people that work there and the families that are affected,” said Doke.
In 2018, the paper company announced a plan to invest more than $50 million into the community over the next three years. They make everything from paper plates to tissue paper and even toilet paper. Not only do they supply paper to local businesses, but their tax dollars also go straight back into the community.
“This is definitely something that could knock the wind out of us so we are trying to get ahead of it and determine what’s going on and the severity of the situation so we can react as quickly as we can,” said Doke.
Since the fire, Muskogee City and County officials have been calling state and federal agencies trying to get ahead of the situation. They say the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission also has a team ready to go in case employees would need to file for unemployment.
But it’s difficult to know the extent of the damage until Georgia Pacific can come in and do a full assessment.
“The main thing is we don’t want to be caught flat-footed. We want to be able to be prepared and react to whatever comes down from here,” said Doke.
Georgia Pacific’s spokesperson says even though this fire is a big loss for them, it will not force them to close their doors. They want to minimize the impact on employees and their families as much as possible.