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Magnesium fire at a recycling plant

January 16, 2005

Thousands of people evacuated because of a magnesium fire at a recycling plant were allowed to return home yesterday, but the blaze still could take days to burn itself out.

The toxic fire erupted at the Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. plant Friday afternoon, but explosions forced firefighters out less than three hours later

No injuries were reported.

At midmorning yesterday, several dozen fire and police officers remained posted around the plant to keep watch on the fire, which shrank considerably overnight but continued to smolder, Sollars said.

Authorities evacuated 3,000 to 5,000 people from an area about one mile wide and two miles long that fell in the path of the smoke, Sollars said.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials conducted air-quality tests and determined yesterday afternoon that the fire no longer posed a health threat and residents could return home.

Magnesium is a silvery-white, highly flammable metal. Burning magnesium produces irritating or toxic fumes and typically is extinguished using dry sand because water can cause a flare-up or explosion.

 

Sollars said the fire began in an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of magnesium in one section of the plant.

Twelve to 18 of the plant’s approximately 70 workers were inside at the time, he said.

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