Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"We had flame shooting higher than the roof...."

Many of plants when they were built were isolated from nearby communities. That was the case for decades where many plants were located far from nearby towns and residential neighborhoods. Sadly, overtime development has encroached on many of our plants. That development has brought a wide range of issues that were foreign to our industry. From complaints from neighboring development for a wide range issues including but not limited to noise, smoke, traffic, etc. In addition this encroachment has brought with it hazards to our plants. From grassland fires in Australia, to earthquakes in Japan, natural hazards have be considered when developing an emergency management plan. Here is a recent story that emphasizes that sometimes what is outside our gates can harm our industry.

On July 13, 2016 in the afternoon a fire in heavily overgrown brush reached within feet of a die casting facility where liquid aluminum was stored.

City fire crews were able to knock down and pull apart a fire that burnt a 30-foot by 30-foot area between near a GCASA residential facility off East Main Street and Pinnacle Manufacturing in the Harvester Industrial Park.

It was close to being much worse, City of Batavia Fire Captain said. “We had flame shooting higher than the roof, and when I got here it was a foot from the structure,” Batavia Fire Captain said. “So it was really close to getting the structure going.”

The fire was noticed by Pinnacle Manufacturing employees shortly after 2 p.m. Employees gathered outside building said they saw “trees outside on fire.”

Some had attempted to battle the fire with the company’s fire extinguishers — an attempt Batavia Fire Captain said would not have stopped the fire. “It wouldn’t have done anything,” he said.

A definitive idea of what started the fire was not immediately determined. No injuries were reported on the scene. The plant, whose shift closes at 3:30 p.m., was shut down for the rest of the afternoon. The co-owner of Pinnacle, said there may have been some smoke damage. “It could have been explosive had they used water (on liquid aluminum),” had the fire reached the interior of the building, the co-owner of Pinnacle said. “We had the pots shut off, but there’s furnaces running 24-7.”

Batavia Fire Captain said the city’s apparatus had foam suppressant on board, and worked diligently to aim their attack away from the building. The facility is a known hazard target. Staging the response was difficult due to the terrain and layout of properties. Initial calls were uncertain whether it was a brush fire or a commercial fire, splitting where responders rushed. By 2:15 p.m., Engine 12 was parked in a flat, brush field behind the GCASA parking lot, with hose snaking alongside the building. Ladder 15 waited nearby in the parking lot. The fire was considered fully out by 3 p.m., Batavia Fire Captain said.

The co-owner of Pinnacle said there remained a lingering concern that brush was allowed to grow so close to manufacturing processes.

The Aluminium Plant Safety Blog congratulates the employee(s) of Pinnacle Manufacturing who noticed the fire and notified the local fire department. We commend the fire department for their quick response and putting out this stubborn fire.

The co-owner is justified to be concerned of the brush that had been allowed to grow up next to their factory. Hopefully that brush will be cut down. The APSB has posted incidents where potential hazards outside our gates are not acknowledged until an incident occurs.

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