Spark ignites chemical fire

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

AFD: Sulfur dust set ablaze from side grinder at Sunbelt Chemicals

Atmore firefighters spent more than five hours battling a chemical fire at Sunbelt Chemicals on Saturday.

AFD Chief Ronald Peebles said the fire department arrived on scene at 8:50 a.m. and finished up at 2:30 p.m.

Peebles said the fire started when a side grinder caused a spark to catch some sulfur dust on fire.

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“With that sulfur dust, it’s funny to deal with,” Peebles said. “You can put it out in one spot, and then it’ll pop up in another.”

Peebles said sulfur dust is fine dust that can spread easily, and when burning produces a chemical gas that is bad for breathing.

“It sporadically can jump from place to place,” he said.

The fire was inside of an office building inside of a larger building, Peebles said.

Peebles said the fire turned into a hazmat situation pretty fast.

“It had to be treated delicately and slowly,” he said. “Then, we spent a lot of time making sure we had everything possible out so we didn’t have a rekindle on it.

“It could’ve turned into one nasty monster,” he said. “The guys did a heck-of-a job handling the fire.”

Because breathing became an issue, the AFD used 44 bottles of air to quench the fire, Peebles said.

“On a normal house fire, we may go through five,” he said.

Peebles said there was one person injured, adding that he had an allergic reaction to the sulfur.

“He was sent to the hospital, and he’s going to be fine,” he said.

Peebles said the condition of the structure is alright, and the fire more or less burned the insulation on top of the complex and messed up one of the A/C systems.

“It could’ve been an ugly situation if they couldn’t have handled the fire the way they did,” he said.