Chemical Fire Forces Evac in PA

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 @ 02:11 PM gHale

Workers at Lubrizol Corp.’s Oilfield Chemistry site were pouring fracking chemicals into a production tank Tuesday when a fire started, forcing the evacuation of residents from over 70 homes and injuring several people, officials said.

Hazardous materials crews moved people living near the warehouse in Leetsdale, PA, to a high school gymnasium as a precaution. The people were able to return after crews go the fire under control Tuesday afternoon.

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Lubrizol’s Oilfield Chemistry site about 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Three employees suffered injuries in the incident, said Lubrizol and Allegheny County Emergency Services chief Alvin Henderson.

One victim had a burned hand and two inhaled fumes, Henderson said. Several firefighters were undergoing evaluation for inhaling fumes. None of the injuries was life-threatening, Henderson and the company said.

Flames shot from the roof, and dark gray smoke was visible for miles as two buildings burned and firefighters tried to keep six others from burning.

Lubrizol employees were working with emergency crews to contain the fire and protect homes and businesses, the company said.

Henderson said the primary danger to the public would be inhaling fumes from two chemicals: Ammonium persulfate and sodium chlorite. Both irritate the respiratory system and could cause more problems for people who already have difficulty breathing, though neither would be life-threatening, Henderson said.

County health director Dr. Karen Hacker said health officials don’t believe there is any immediate risk to the public. She said monitors “haven’t shown any levels of concern and are not expected to” and southerly winds overnight should help spare the county much impact.