Chemical plant fire in Fairfield

June 4, 2008 11:48:25 PM PDT
The shelter-in-place order has now been lifted after a three-alarm fire at a chemical plant came under control.

Residents of Fairfield were warned to stay inside their homes Wednesday night, because of a three-alarm chemical fire. The shelter in place order has been lifted.

Earlier this evening, toxic black smoke poured out of the Ashland Chemical Plant for more than two hours. The facility is located on Crocker Circle, right across from the Travis Air Force Base.

It took a hazardous materials team quite some time to respond because they were waiting for special units to bring in foam to put on the chemical fire. The fire started when a tanker truck, loaded with chemicals, burst into flames around 6 p.m.

Lots of toxic, black smoke rose from the fire and could be seen as far away from Concord, as it drifted south over Benicia, Martinez, Vallejo, and other parts of Contra Costa County.

Firefighters say they're not sure how a tanker truck at the chemical plant caught fire. It spread to two other tankers and the entire industrial block was quickly evacuated. Firefighters say the tankers were carrying four toxic of chemicals, toluene which is a chemical thinner, ethyl acetate, Xylene which is a paint thinner, and another chemical called 142 Solvent which is a hydrocarbon.

"I didn't see anybody over there. This whole street was full of emergency vehicles. When the explosions started there was just people flying everywhere, they were just running, getting away," said Bill Bowen a witness from an aluminum can manufacturing plant next door.

"Water would have just spread the fire. These chemicals being hydrocarbons are lighter than water and they float on top of the water and therefore the runoff would just carry flames to different portions of the plant. It might have involved other portions of the structure or other vehicles in the area," said Assistant Fire Marshall Jerry Clark from Fairfield.

So they let the fire burn out as much as they could before they brought in a hazardous materials crew to knock it out.

The Ashland Chemical Plant is a blending facility where the chemicals are stored and loaded onto train cars.

The shelter in place order was lifted for about 2,500 residents in Suisun City, south of the chemical plant.

Click here for Contra Costa shelter-in-place procedures.

Watch raw video of the chemical plant fire from SKY7-HD. Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for more on this developing story.


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