Dow Chemical Fire Quickly Contained with Proper Fire Protection

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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.

WSAZ.com | Tags:  dow chemical, fire protection, foam sprinklers, chemical based suppression