The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

May 10, 2014

Officials: Fire at local magnesium plant not toxic

Blaze smolders for hours after containment

ANDERSON, Ind. — A fire at a local factory was smothered hours after it started, but residents were fearful of the white ash coating their homes, vehicles and yards.

Officials at Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corporation, or AMACOR, located at 1820 E. 32nd St., reported the blaze shortly after 8 a.m. on Saturday. Shawn Copeland, a 13-year employee at the plant, discovered the fire in an outside pit.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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.”

Connie Boots, who has lived near the factory for two years, was worried about the white ash from the fire that had coated her home and yard. She said she looked up information online after attempting to contact someone at the company.

“The cops said it was non-toxic and to just hose it off with soap and water, but no one at the plant called us back,” she said. “We have called over there three times.”

She said she wanted to know why, if there was no threat, a HAZMAT crew was called to test the air.

“They sure were not quick to let anyone know what it was,” she said. “We have dogs and can’t keep them in the house all day.”

Neighbor Joseph Smith said he was also worried about the white ash. Nearby, Smith’s 9-year-old son was smearing the chalky ash around in a bottle cap with his finger.

“I just saw a lot of smoke. I didn’t know what was going on,” Smith said. “I made the mistake of touching it this morning, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought they were flowers from that tree, but it was flaking off weird.”

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

“I can see why those people 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.”

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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