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WSAZ INVESTIGATES: Chemical Concerns Following Fire at Tech Park

By: Brooks Jarosz, Jeremy Edwards Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, Jeremy Edwards Email

UPDATE 12/19/12 @ 6:45 p.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A chemical emergency had crews responding to a fire at a research and development facility and sparked a WSAZ investigation into chemical incidents.

Fire officials tell WSAZ.com they were called to the West Virginia Regional Technology Park just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. They say flames broke out near a chemical storage tank.

No one was hurt, and the fire was contained in less than 10 minutes, according to investigators.

WSAZ.com's Brooks Jarosz launched an investigation to find out how often these incidents happen and what plans are in place to prevent them from becoming more hazardous.

South Charleston Fire Chief John Taylor says the campus at the tech park and the surrounding community was never in any danger.

With Kanawha County often called the "Chemical Valley," Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman tells WSAZ.com on any given week, there's one or more alerts of a potential problem at Kanawha chemical plants -- most unfounded or minor.

However, since the Bayer plant explosion in 2008 and the series of unreported leaks at DuPont, we found there's been significant changes to improve safety.

"Priority number one is the same on every type of incident -- life safety," Sigman said. "That includes the life of the responders."

Air monitors line the outside of large plants like Bayer, according to Sigman. Mobile air monitors are used in regular patrols at Kanawha Valley plants.

An alarm system triggered by the sprinkler system notified emergency crews about the fire Wednesday, according to firefighters.

"The initial crews when they arrived on scene -- the sprinkler system had already engaged," Chief John Taylor said. "They did start throwing foam on to the fire, and once more crews arrived on scene the hose lines deployed and the fire was put out."

Chemical companies are required by law to report any hazards, which launches a protection plan.

Dow Chemical tells WSAZ.com in this case the chemical was trimethylaluminum -- used in the production of polyethylene to make plastic products like food packaging, toys and medical supplies.

We dug deeper and found that chemical can cause serious burns, and fumes can cause skin and eye irritation. Prompt medical attention is required in all cases of exposure.

Emergency officials say the plan in place worked well following Wednesday's incident at the Tech Park. Dow advised firefighters to use foam to avoid the fumes and vapors from spreading.

Dow Chemical said in a statement that the fire response "reinforces the importance of having good plans, training and communication."

The cause of the fire is still being investigated by Dow. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/19/12 @ 11:25 a.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An alarm system triggered emergency crews into action after a fire broke out at one of the buildings at the West Virginia Regional Development Park.

South Charleston Fire Chief John Taylor tells WSAZ.com several chemical tanks were involved in the fire, but no major injuries or major damage was reported.

"The initial crews when they arrived on scene -- the sprinkler system had already engaged," Chief John Taylor said. "They did start throwing foam on to the fire and once more crews arrived on scene the hose lines deployed and the fire was put out."

Alarms signaled emergency workers to the production facility about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. The facility is owned by Dow Chemical, according to officials at the tech park.

"There was an automatic alarm that went off due to the fire alarm and the water flow for the sprinkler system that's around the tanks that were involved," Taylor said.

Firefighters say when they arrived on the scene they could see flames coming from outside the research production facility. The Dow incident squad advised fire crews to spray foam on the flames to limit the vapors.

"Nobody was injured and there was no impact outside of the production facility," Taylor said. "It was a very minor event."

Charleston Fire Department helped cover South Charleston while all four stations responded to the incident. Dunbar Fire Department was also on standby. Units from the Air National Guard were called in to assist with the foam cleanup and provide support.

The cause of the incident is under investigation by Dow Chemical. The company released the following statement late Wednesday morning:
"We want to thank the City of South Charleston emergency responders who managed today's incident together with Dow personnel," said Dow West Virginia Operations Leader Tyler London. "The response was excellent and this reinforces the importance of having good plans, training and communication during these types of events."

The fire has been contained and clean-up activities are happening now.

WSAZ.com's Brooks Jarosz will have a live report at Midday. Keep clicking WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/19/2012 @ 10:00 a.m.
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A fire at a chemical processing facility in South Charleston has been put out.

The fire started in an outside tank at Building 773 at the Tech Park. The building is owned by DOW Chemical.

Firefighters say flames could be seen coming from the tank when they arrived.

They are not sure what chemical was involved in the incident.

The South Charleston Fire Department responded and put a layer of foam on the fire, which contained the fire quickly.

No one was hurt. There is no word on what started the fire.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Emergency crews are responding to a fire at the Tech Park in South Charleston.

The fire started about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday in Building 773.

There's no word yet whether anybody has been hurt in the fire.

Emergency crews are diverting traffic at the Tech Park.

Kanawha County emergency management officials say the fire has been put out by the South Charleston Fire Department and everything is under control.

No word on what started the fire.

We have a crew on the scene.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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