Today in fire history: fire at a chemical manufacturing facility killed one plant employee and injured five others

Blog Post created by paulalevesque Employee on Aug 18, 2014

On Friday, August 18, 1995 a fire at a chemical manufacturing facility in Tonawanda, New York killed one plant employee and injured five others.  In addition, the fire destroyed a 12,000 square-foot warehouse and several adjacent offices.  Local and state fire investigators considered the cause to be the decomposition of product stored in the warehouse. 

The chemical plant involved in this incident produced ammonium, potassium and sodium persulfate, and all of these materials were stored in warehouse that was destroyed.  The warehouse, which was of ordinary construction, was protected by a dry sprinkler system.  Fire extinguishers and manual hose stations were also provided for use by plant employees. 

Once ignited, the fire ignited combustible materials, such as packaging materials and wood pallets, that were close to the decomposing commodity.  The fire grew large enough to ignite the combustible materials in the roof assembly and to cause a roof collapse before the arrival of the fire department.  Due to the size of the fire upon arrival, fire fighters did not enter the building to attack the fire. 

The employee who died sustained a fatal injury when he jumped from a second-story window in a control room that was near the burning warehouse.  An open fire door allowed smoke to fill a corridor which provided access from the control room to an enclosed exit stairway that was approximately 25 feet away.  Investigators could not determine if the victim attempted to reach the enclosed stairway before breaking and jumping out of the control room window.


For more information on this fire NFPA Fire Investigations