HMN-A chemical fire resulted in momentary evacuation of State Route 24 in Salina, according to the Richfield Reaper.
SALINA — A chemical fire resulted in a momentary evacuation and closure of State Route 24 in Salina as crews worked to extinguish flames and contain smoke.
The fire occurred at United Soil Science, located at 484 South SR 24 in Salina, said Salina Police Chief Eric Pratt.
“The first officer to arrive observed a strong chemical type odor in the area and could see white smoke billowing out from a bay area attached to the building,” Pratt said. “The officer began to notice his throat and lungs becoming irritated.”
The officer requested a hazmat response.
“No one was believed to be inside the building,” Pratt said. Salina firefighters assessed the situation and confirmed that there was some sort of chemical fire responsible for the odor and the white smoke coming from the building.
“It was determined that in the interest of public safety, the surrounding area would need to be evacuated and traffic would need to be diverted,” Pratt said.
Deputies from the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and troopers from the Utah Highway Patrol assisted with evacuations and traffic control. The Richfield, Salina and Aurora fire departments responded, along with hazmat teams from Sevier and Sanpete counties. A National Guard hazmat team was mobilized, but was later canceled as the situation quickly de-escalated.
Much of the response was precautionary, said Cody Barton, emergency manager for the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department.
“At first we didn’t know what we had,” Barton said. He said as information was verified, it turned out that the smoke and fumes came from sulfur, which had likely been ignited by a loader’s exhaust. However, an official cause of the fire hasn’t been determined by the Utah State Fire Marshal’s Office, which also responded to assist in the investigation.
The fire in the sulfur appeared to have ignited a supply of another chemical, a byproduct of coal, which produced the visible smoke. While the smoke and fumes were irritants, they were not extremely dangerous, Barton said.
“It’s something people put in their soil and use every day,” Barton said.
The fire was safely extinguished and the area was reopened to highway traffic within an hour, which is when the evacuation was also rescinded.
No one was reported injured as a result of the fire, but two people were evaluated for smoke inhalation. One person was transported to Gunnison Valley Hospital. The Gunnison Valley Fire Department decontaminated the subject, who was evaluated and later released.
Barton said the dispatchers and responders all did a good job in managing and containing what had the potential to be a volatile situation.
“This is a good example of why it’s important to network and build working relationships with other agencies,” Barton said. “Everyone showed up and did what they needed to do for the public’s safety as well as their own.”
The chemical fire was an example of the types of incidents the Sevier County Local Emergency Planning Committee discusses and trains for, according to Barton. Anyone interested in participating in the LEPC is welcome to attend its meetings, which are held on the third Wednesday of each month at the county’s search and rescue building, 801 Eat 300 North in Richfield.