Chem Reaction Forces WI Building Evac

Thursday, February 19, 2015 @ 12:02 PM gHale

Carbon monoxide was in the air and over 100 firefighters from the Fitchburg, WI, area responded to the hazardous material call at a plastics company’s production building, officials said.

After an employee showed signs of carbon monoxide poisoning at the EcoStar facility in Fitchburg, firefighters got the call, said Fitchburg fire Deputy Chief Rich Roth.

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Firefighters confirmed high Carbon monoxide (CO) levels inside the building and the department followed protocol and contacted the Madison Hazardous Incident Team, or HIT, Roth said. The National Guard’s 54th Civil Support Team in Madison also responded with its chemical biological monitoring team.

The teams determined there was a chemical reaction happening in a pellet storage bin in the EcoStar building’s production area, Roth said. EcoStar recycles used plastics into plastic sheets sold commercially, according to the company website.

To reduce the CO in the building to a safe level, firefighters, HIT and guard members had to remove about 7,000 pounds of plastic pellets from a large storage bin by hand, Roth said. To tackle the task, hazmat response rotated in shifts for about 17 hours through Friday night and Saturday morning.

Roth estimated about 120 fire and EMS personnel took part in the large-scale, labor-intensive operation overnight.

“We never had to strip fire and EMS protection from another area,” Roth said. “We’d leap frog communities so that we didn’t get everybody right closest to the scene and not leave people unprotected.”

The building was cleared of the hazardous material and turned over to EcoStar managers at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Roth said.

EcoStar and its parent company, Placon, officials were not immediately available.

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