BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo firefighters and haz mat crews spent hours at a business on Elmwood Avenue overnight and into early morning Tuesday after vats of acid caught fire inside the Frontier Galvanizing building.
The fire started around 11 p.m. Buffalo Fire Division Chief Peter Kertzie says someone spotted smoke in the area and called 911. Buffalo Police were then able to pinpoint the location of the fire at the Frontier Galvanizing building and helped firefighters get through a fence to get to work on the scene.
Arriving firefighters saw thick black smoke pouring from the roof of the building, and then quickly discovered a vat of hydrochloric acid had caught fire inside.
The acid is used in a chemical process done on metals at the business, and Kertzie says a heater had been set up for a vat of of the acid to prepare it for work that was going to be done with it Tuesday. Kertzie says it appears the heater malfunctioned, sparking the fire in the lining of a vat and in some surrounding materials.
“The fire was burning pretty good in and around the vats but we didn’t want to rush in and put them out right away. We wanted to keep it safe and bring our people out. Take some readings before we attacked it,” Kertzie told News 4.
Haz Mat crews were called to the scene to assess the situation and help come up with a plan to fight the fire.
Fire crews were able to use foam to put the flames out.
Kertzie says the conditions were in their favor, in this case. Because the style of the roof of the building was already allowing much of the heat to escape, the fire wasn’t growing out of control very quickly, so firefighters were able to take a step back and make a plan that would keep everyone safe.
“There wasn’t a risk of it spreading to a different building. There was a risk of different tanks leaking and different materials in different tanks mixing, so that was a risk right from the beginning,” he explained. “What we did to start out with was we put a large line from the outside and put a water spray on the inside to keep it in check while we could research the materials in there.”
Kertzie said about 5,000 gallons of acid leaked in the fire, including a very small amount that drained into the sewer system. Kertzie says the sewer department told fire officials the amount that drained was small enough that it was not reason for concern.
Haz Mat crews also took readings around the area and determined there was no risk to the people in the hotel and apartments nearby.
No injuries were reported.
Kertzie says it’s difficult to give an accurate damage estimate given the specialty nature of the equipment in the building, but the preliminarily, officials think there is at least $75,000 in damage to the building and another $75,000 in damage to the contents.