Magnesium Fire at Archery Making Complex

Friday, July 10, 2015 @ 05:07 PM gHale

A magnesium fueled fire at the Martin Archery manufacturing complex in Walla Walla, WA, Wednesday completely destroyed the business.

As a result of the magnesium, firefighters couldn’t use water to put out some of the flames.

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Nearly everything inside the building ended up destroyed in the blaze, officials said. The initial call about the fire at Martin Archery came in about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, indicating the machine shop was on fire. The manufacturer had been making a comeback after nearly going out of business a few years ago.

Firefighters said this fire was so hard to fight because of what was burning inside. Three employees who were working in the shop at the time escaped, and there were no injuries in the blaze.

Part of the Martin Archery manufacturing process uses magnesium to create the structure of some bows. When it burns, there’s trouble.

“When magnesium burns and you put water on it, it has an explosive effect,” said Chief of Walla Walla Fire District 4 Rocky Eastman said. “It’s a chemical reaction between the water and the magnesium that is burning and molting.”

“On areas of this fire, when we put water on it, it made it worse,” Eastman said.

The 17,000-square-foot machine shop, located behind a larger building used for product storage and offices, is where Martin Archery manufactures bows.

Eastman said that with the machine shop heavily involved in flames, the primary objective became to protect the adjacent 40,000-square-foot office and storage building.

Fire crews protected that building from damage. A nearby residence, about 30 feet east of the machine shop, sustained about $10,000 worth of damage.

Eastman said the grass adjacent to the shop also started to burn and threatened other residences to the north and an adjacent field to the west.

“There was the potential for a natural cover fire there, so we requested additional water and support,” Eastman said.