Texas fire releases lethal chlorine gas
Warehouse was used to store pieces of crushed polyvinyl chloride plastic that were to be recycled and used to line new metal pipes
By Greg Kendall-Ball
ABILENE, Texas — A fire that broke out in a warehouse at the Salta Pipe Company yard along Highway 277 north of Abilene kept firefighters from Abilene and Hawley busy for several hours early Thursday.
In addition to the typical heat and smoke associated with a structure fire, the firefighters had to battle the blaze — which ignited around 1:30 a.m. — in full SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) gear due to the presence of lethal chlorine gas. The public was in no danger.
The warehouse was used to store pieces of crushed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic that were to be recycled and used to line new metal pipes. When PVC burns, it emits the chlorine gas.
Although the fire was declared out about 1 p.m., fire crews were on the scene an hour later ensuring all hot spots were extinguished.
The fire inside the two-story structure burned hot enough to warp the half-inch steel I-beams supporting the building's roof, and caused the aluminum walls to melt away in places.
Abilene Fire Department Battalion Chief Johnny Kincaid said Hawley Fire Department crews initially responded to the fire, and AFD responded in mutual aid.
Kincaid said the fire was under investigation and that the state fire marshal would likely be called in to determine what caused the blaze.
The firefighting efforts were hampered by water supply issues.
Without adequate hydrants in the vicinity, crews had to truck water to the site from Hawley, about a half-mile away.
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