HAZMAT helps fight two-alarm chemical fire in Tonawanda

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Nine fire companies from Tonawanda and Kenmore, including a HAZMAT team, were called out to help fight a smoky two-alarm fire at an industrial business on Sawyer Avenue Saturday evening.

Ellwood Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Stuff said the fire, which started inside FMC Corporation, appears to be accidental.

“Basically, they had a couple chemical oxidizers that somehow reacted or started on fire,” Chief Stuff said.

An unknown number of employees were working in the building at the time. Stuff said FMC’s sprinklers turned on, the fire doors activated, and employees called the fire department. All of them made it outside safely.

A second alarm and HAZMAT response are standard protocol for a chemical fire, Stuff said.

“Not a severe hazard, but something that could get out of control in a hurry. Generally, needs just a lot of water,” the Chief said of the chemicals that were burning. “Explosions were highly unlikely. Basically, once you get the water flowing on this stuff, you get it under control. If left unwatered, obviously it would build up. Get worse and worse and worse. Basically, it’s a powder chemical that’s a skin irritant, and any smoke of off-gassing from it can become a respiratory irritant.”

Neither any employees nor any firefighters were injured.

A damage estimate was not immediately available.

Stuff said investigators would be working to determine exactly how the fire started.

“If we deem [it] necessary, we’ll contact the DEC or OSHA. The company’s pretty good with us. They have a video camera recording in that area,” which could help pinpoint the cause of the fire, Stuff said. “Hopefully within the next day or two, we’ll figure that out.”

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