Chemical Release Injures Dozens

Update: 

Spokane Fire Department is releasing the four block restriction around the Pacific Steel and Recycling building at 1114 N. Ralph. The Pacific Steel building itself will still be closed to non-emergency personnel until Department of Ecology personnel have had time to evaluate the scene.

 

At this time, Spokane Fire officials are confident the gas released was chlorine and not arsenic trichloride. This was determined after fire personnel were able to enter the scene, identify the one ton chemical container, and test the clothing of the patients who first came into contact with the chemical. Chlorine dissipates quickly and fire personnel monitoring air quality in the area have found no residual chlorine particulates.

“Our primary concern at this time is for the health of our employees and the community around our facility,” said President/CEO of Pacific Steel and Recycling, Jeff Millhollin. “We are working closely with the City to ensure the area is safe and investigate the cause of this incident.”

“Spokane Fire and Police worked quickly to ensure the safety of those impacted by the incident,” said Mayor David Condon. “We appreciate the coordination and support of our regional first-response partners who helped us deliver care quickly and contain the scene.”

The Department of Ecology is expected to respond to the scene in the next several hours and will be the lead in communications once they are on scene.

Ofc. Teresa Fuller | Spokane Police Department

Previous Release: Just before 10:00am, Spokane Fire Department received a report of a chemical release at the Pacific Steel and Recycling facility at 1114 N. Ralph. Several other calls were received indicating people were being affected in the area around the Ralph address. Numerous agencies responded including Spokane Fire, Spokane Police, AMR, District 8, District 4, Kootenai County, Fairchild Air Force Base, and Spokane Valley Fire.

 

At approximately 9:45am today, 08/12/2015, Spokane Fire Department received a call of a chemical release at Pacific Steel and Recycling. Once on scene, fire officials determined that the incident was fairly serious and ordered a reverse 911 level 2 evacuation. The purpose of the level 2 evacuation warning was to prepare people in the area to evacuate should the need arise. Burlington Northern was also asked to halt train traffic through the area.

Workers at the steel facility advised they had been handling a steel barrel. Sometime while they were working with the barrel, it was punctured and released a large plume of yellow vapor. Eight workers at  the facility were immediately  affected by the unknown chemical.

The chemical plume was carried by winds, traveled southwest of the location and settled on a city owned facility at 901 N. Nelson. There were approximately 20 workers outside at the time that were affected by the chemical.

The effects of the chemical ranged from minor respiratory issues (coughing, etc.) to severe respiratory issues with some patients listed as critical.  The chemical is believed to be Arsenic Trichloride, however that is a preliminary identification.

Evacuations are still in place for those businesses contacted directly by emergency personnel. The area is also still barricaded off and we ask that people not enter the area contained within the barricades. We are still receiving reports of people in the area being affected by the release and urge anyone with symptoms to seek evaluation by a medical professional.

Ofc. Teresa Fuller | Spokane Police Department

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