LEETSDALE, Pa. (AP) — Workers at a warehouse were pouring hydraulic fracturing chemicals into a production tank Tuesday when a fire started, forcing residents from more than 70 nearby homes for several hours and injuring several people, emergency and company officials said.
Hazardous materials crews moved people living near the warehouse in Leetsdale to a high school gymnasium as a precaution. The people were allowed to return after crews announced the fire was largely under control Tuesday afternoon.
The fire was at Lubrizol Corp.'s Oilfield Chemistry site about 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
The company and Allegheny County Emergency Services chief Alvin Henderson said three employees were injured. One had a burned hand and two inhaled fumes, Henderson said. Several firefighters were being evaluated for inhaling fumes. None of the injuries was deemed life-threatening, Henderson and the company said.
The fire was reported Tuesday morning. Flames shot from the roof, and dark gray smoke could be seen for miles as two buildings burned and firefighters tried to keep six others from burning.
Lubrizol employees were working with emergency crews to contain the fire and protect homes and businesses, the company said.
Henderson said the primary danger to the public would be inhaling fumes from two chemicals: ammonium persulfate and sodium chlorite. Both irritate the respiratory system and could cause more problems for people who already have difficulty breathing, though neither would be considered life-threatening, Henderson said.
County health director Dr. Karen Hacker said health officials don't believe there is any immediate risk to the public. She said monitors "haven't shown any levels of concern and are not expected to" and southerly winds overnight should help spare the county much impact.
She said, however, that anyone experiencing trouble breathing or intense coughing, especially those with existing chronic conditions, should seek medical attention.