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November 14, 2010

Crews douse chemical fire inside Beverly facilty

BEVERLY — Firefighters responding to a Sohier Road business yesterday morning found a chemical tank smoldering next to a 55-gallon drum of hazardous materials that included a chemical with small amounts of cyanide.

"At no time was there any significant threat to the public," said a statement from the Fire Department, which responded to Communications and Power Industries at 10:03 a.m. "Facility systems and emergency response plans assisted the Fire Department in the quick mitigation of the incident."

Crews put out the fire, what looked like a puddle of burning plastic, with a dry chemical fire extinguisher. They noticed the container was damaged and left the building, said Deputy Chief Peter O'Connor said.

The chemical in question has the commercial name of Alumseal 2000, O'Connor said. The chemical is used in aluminum plating and is a cyanide-based zincate.

Two of the chemicals involved were sodium hydroxide and sodium cyanide in small amounts. Once crews knew what was in the breached container, they requested help from the state hazardous materials team.

A District 6 Hazmat team arrived and assessed the situation with those at the facility. Workers at the 150 Sohier Road business then donned protective gear and cleaned up the substance.

"Their facility response team did most of the work," said O'Connor, who described the response from the company as "pretty good."

Once the substance was cleaned up, firefighters and fire investigators went back inside to assess the damage and the cause. They found the fire confined to a single container and the adjacent storage drum.

Fire officials determined a malfunctioning heater in the tank had caused the fire. The sprinkler system prevented the spread of the fire, but could not completely extinguish it.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by e-mail at eforman@salemnews.com.

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