Static Electricity Starts MI Chem Fire

Monday, December 12, 2016 @ 01:12 PM gHale

Static electricity may have been the cause of a three-alarm fire that collapsed the roof of a chemical company’s facility in Auburn Hills, MI, fire officials said.

Firefighters got the call at 12:50 a.m. Thursday to a fire at the LXR Biotech building. Two employees were working at the business when the fire started. Both escaped without injury, authorities said.

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Arriving firefighters saw flames coming through the roof and rear of the building. LXR Biotech stores heptane — a highly flammable chemical — inside the building and the chemical was burning.

Authorities elevated the incident to a three-alarm fire quickly after learning about the chemical inside the facility.

In all, personnel from Rochester Hills, Rochester, Orion Township, Oakland Township, Troy, Waterford, Bloomfield Township and elsewhere assisted in the blaze.

Oakland County Hazardous Materials team ended up called to the scene of the fire, as well, and tested the air quality. HazMat experts determined there was not a threat due to the burning chemical.

The team took water samples in the area, and “determined that the chemicals will not have a long term impact on the environment as the high volume of water used to extinguish the fire had diluted the product,” said Auburn Hills Fire Chief James Manning in a statement.

While Oakland County Sheriff’s fire investigators and Auburn Hills fire officials were investigating, an employee of the business said he was moving a large open container of heptane when static electricity ignited the heptane.

“Attempts to extinguish the fire with an extinguisher were not successful and the fire quickly spread throughout the building,” Manning said.

The building ultimately ended up completely destroyed in the fire, Manning said. Within the first 20 minutes of fire crews being on-scene, the roof collapsed. Auburn Hills Department of Public Works employees later had to knock down the outside walls with an excavator to prevent further collapse. Fire crews stayed at the scene until 7:22 a.m., investigating and assisting with clean-up.

No one suffered an injury in the blaze, officials said. In addition, nearby buildings did not suffer any damage.



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