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Fire at Va. galvanizing plant injures firefighter

Posted on by SST

An Oct. 26 fire caused extensive damage to a Petersburg, Va., galvanizing plant.

Firefighters received a call at 8:13 p.m. of a fire at the Industrial Galvanizers America plant on Halifax Road, Times Dispatch reported. Crews arrived several minutes later, quickly discovering heavy fire in the building. Petersburg firefighters put fire suppression techniques into action, knocking down the blaze by 9:50 p.m. Fort Lee and Chesterfield Fire Departments were also on scene.

One firefighter was sent to the hospital with minor injuries, according to Chief T.C. Hairston of Petersburg Fire and EMS.

The fire started at the back of the plant, burning through some interior walls as well as a quarter of the roof, according to Hairston. A large amount of equipment was also damaged.

Despite the fire being extinguished, the area was still hazardous as the large volume of water used by firefighters mixed with chemical run-off, Progress Index reported.

Industrial coating process
The hot-dip method, which was utilized at the plant, requires a series of chemicals to complete the process. Although it was not reported what chemicals concerned responders at the Petersburg plant, the chemicals required for the method are often hazardous.

The galvanizing process involves the coating of steel products with a protective layer that prevents the metal from rusting. Typically, a layer of zinc is applied. Chemicals are primarily used, however, prior to the dipping.

Impurities must be thoroughly cleansed from the steel or iron products before they are coated. According to the Ohio Galvanizing Corporation, a hot alkali solution might be used to remove organic contaminants while a solution of hydrochloric acid can remove rust. Finally, to remove oxides and help zinc stick to the surface, products must be fluxed. A solution such as zinc ammonium chloride could be used for the final cleaning step.

For the galvanizing process itself, products are immersed into a tub of pure molten zinc, which allows the product to be fully coated.

Petersburg incident
Luckily for responders at the Industrial Galvanizers America plant,  the threat of chemical exposure was determined not to be dangerous, Progress Index reported. With the chemical threat alleviated, the fire was officially called under control at 11:40 p.m. Assistance was provided by the Crater Regional Hazmat Team.

The injured firefighter has since been released from the hospital. Preliminary reports estimate $500,000 in damages to the facility.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.

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