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Hundreds evacuated after fire at Detroit chemical plant

Aug. 10, 2005
ROMULUS, Mich. - A series of explosions rocked a Detroit-area chemical plant, causing a fire that sent plumes of black smoke into the air and prompted officials to urge hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes.

Authorities said no injuries were reported, and no one was inside the plant when the fire started late Tuesday.

About a dozen people were treated at a hospital in neighboring Wayne for minor complaints, such as difficulty breathing, said hospital spokesman Tom Worobec. All were expected to be discharged by Wednesday morning, he said.

Romulus Public Safety Director Charles Kirby urged residents within a mile-radius of the fire to evacuate their homes. The area included about 1,000 homes in Wayne and another 150 in Romulus, but it was unclear how many people chose to leave, officials said.

Series of explosions
Witnesses described a series of loud explosions at the E.Q. Resource Recovery Inc. plant that shook the ground and shot flames and smoke into the air. The company specializes in treating, recycling and disposing of hazardous material.

Dan Gilbert, a plant spokesman, told WXYZ-TV that plant employees were working outside in an area around the tanks just before the explosion and were evacuated after an emergency horn sounded. All were accounted for and none of them requested medical treatment, he said.

Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert said the intensity of the fire and uncertainty about the chemicals kept firefighting crews from getting too close. The fire didn’t threaten any homes and there was no risk of it spreading, officials said.

The fire caused eight metal tanks containing acetone, a chemical used to clean machinery, to melt to half their original size, Kirby said. Fire officials expected that the chemical would burn out within eight hours, he said.

Hazardous materials officials had tested the air quality and found no danger present, Kirby said. But workers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were on their way to conduct more tests.

Romulus, home to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, is about 25 miles southwest of Detroit.

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