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
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.