ANDERSON, Ind. — A magnesium fire at a recycling plant that forced thousands to evacuate their homes may take days to burn itself out after firefighters gave up on trying to extinguish the blaze themselves.
The fire erupted at the Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. plant around 5 p.m. Friday, but explosions inside forced firefighters out less than three hours later, said police spokesman Detective Terry Sollars.
There were no reports of injuries.
'Not enough sand'
Magnesium is a silvery-white, highly flammable metal that, when ignited, releases irritating or toxic fumes. Magnesium fires are typically extinguished using dry sand since water can cause a flare-up or explosion.
“God doesn’t have enough sand in Anderson,” Fire Chief J.R. Rosencrans said. By 9 p.m., he had decided to let the fire burn itself out.
Authorities evacuated about 5,000 people from an area about one mile wide and two miles long that fell in the path of the smoke and fumes; wind speeds were about 5 mph, Sollars said.
“They’re afraid the plant is gonna blow,” said Doug Parks, who lives across the street and upwind from the plant. “We heard a couple of explosions that shook the house.”
Sollars said the fire began with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of magnesium in one section of the plant. “We’re not sure yet on what the start of it was,” he said.
Twelve to 18 of the plant’s approximately 70 workers were inside at the time, he said.
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