An explosive fire at a chemical facility in downtown Omaha, NE sparked evacuations and community concerns last week. What began as a fire reported at about 7 p.m. on May 30 resulted in a series of explosions, which shot columns of black smoke into the air.
About 50 firefighters rushed to the scene and urged residents near the burning chemical facility to temporarily evacuate as almost 2,400 homes lost power
. The fire was successfully contained the following morning, May 31, and then extinguished later that same day.
Although the plant makes chemical sealants and cleaners for concrete issues, no one was at the facility when the fire began, and no injuries were reported. The company last reported to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
that 89 different chemicals are kept on-site, most of which are flammable.
Chemical reporting played a crucial role in quickly extinguishing this fire. Because firefighters were aware of the chemicals on site, foam and water was used to suppress the fire. Had emergency personnel used carbon dioxide as a fire suppressant
, it may have worsened the fire.
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), found at 29 CFR 1910.1200,
requires employers to keep a Safety Data Sheet on file for any hazardous chemical to which their employees are, or may be, exposed in the workplace. EPA refers to this Standard in its inventory reporting rules under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPA states that if a facility has more than a certain amount of any chemical for which OSHA requires a Safety Data Sheet, then the facility must report this to its community.
Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of the blaze. City officials said it would continue to monitor air and water quality and are asking residents to consult a doctor if they are experiencing any dizziness, headaches, or respiratory symptoms.
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