Magnesium Plant Fire Not Toxic

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 @ 09:05 AM gHale

Firefighters and plant personnel worked together to control a blaze at a local magnesium factory, while residents worried about the residual white ash coating their homes, vehicles and yards.

Officials at Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corporation, or AMACOR, in Anderson, IN, reported the fire shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday. Shawn Copeland, a 13-year employee at the plant, discovered the fire in an outside pit. The cause of the fire remains unknown at this point.

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The pit contained a byproduct of magnesium and Arie Shaked, a manager at the plant, said it was not toxic.

Magnesium is a highly flammable metal that, if ignited, can release irritating or toxic fumes. The metal can also be explosive. In 2005, a blaze at the same plant required the evacuation of thousands of people in Anderson.

“It was an unfortunate thing that happened, but it is nothing to worry about,” Shaked said late Saturday afternoon as plumes of white smoke still drifted from the pit. “It looks worse than it is.”

Shaked said it would take several hours for the fire to consume itself. He said there would be an internal investigation to find the cause of the fire.

Anderson Fire Department Assistant Battalion Chief Jeff Kline responded to the scene along with other emergency personnel.

Kline said that when they arrived, factory employees trained to fight magnesium fires were bringing out salt to cover the flames.

“It still has the same properties as magnesium so you can’t put water on it,” Kline said. “You just have to try to confine it where it is at and control it as best you can.”

Hazardous material crews tested air samples to make sure they were safe, he said.

“It is non-toxic,” Kline said. “It’s more like an irritant — like a campfire.”

Kline said years ago there was a dangerous magnesium fire at the plant.

“I can see why (neighbors) would be concerned now,” he said. “They assured us it is a byproduct and nothing like it was years ago.

“But we still had HAZMAT people to come out to assure us and everyone else.”

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