3 Hurt in Chemical Fire

Monday, June 22, 2015 @ 10:06 AM gHale

A ruptured chemical pipe started a fire in a factory in Chattanooga, TN, Wednesday morning, prompting an evacuation of the plant and injuring several firefighters.

The fire broke out around 10:44 a.m. at NA Industries at 2651 Riverport Road after a pipe containing the chemical maleic anhydride broke open, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said.

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Firefighters got the blaze under control within 15 minutes, in part because NA Industries’ deluge sprinklers automatically activated, said tactical services Chief Danny Hague.

One firefighter suffered exposure to a chemical and medical personnel rushed him to Erlanger hospital for skin irritation, Garner said. Later, two other firefighters also went to Erlanger for an evaluation as a precaution.

All three ended up treated and released by Wednesday afternoon.

None of the 27 plant employees working at the time suffered an injury, Garner said.

Almost all employees evacuated during the incident. The fire was out by 11:35 a.m. and firefighters left the scene at 12:45 p.m., after calling in a hazmat team.

NA Industries employees could not say Wednesday how much of the chemical, maleic anhydride, had leaked from the pipe, but Garner said investigators did determine there was no threat to the public.

Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to maleic anhydride can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and eye irritation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Chronic (long-term) exposure to maleic anhydride could cause chronic bronchitis, asthma-like attacks, and upper respiratory tract and eye irritation in workers.

NA Industries has been in Chattanooga for 25 years and produces fine chemicals used in detergent and to strengthen cement.