Seventy (70) Homes Evacuated in Fracking Chemical Fire at Leetsdale, PA

by Duane Nichols on November 19, 2015

Leetsdale PA Fracking Chemical Fire

Fire at Leetsdale chemical plant leads to 70 homes being evacuated, five injured

Leetsdale, PA – WTAE, News 4, Pittsburgh, Nov. 17, 2015

A fire at the Leetsdale Industrial Park that reached three alarms and prompted a hazmat response and local evacuations Tuesday morning is now being reported as mostly under control.

Sky 4 video showed large flames and thick smoke coming from a building owned by Lubrizol Corporation, which said the fire started when employees were mixing chemicals used in fracking in a production tank.

“We were working with a chemical, an oxidizer, that had an adverse reaction,” said plant manager Ed Michalowski. “We don’t know the full details of it yet. We’re still doing some investigation.”

The fire just northwest of Pittsburgh was reported shortly after 10 a.m. Flames shot from the roof, and dark gray smoke could be seen for miles. The mobile unit from Allegheny County Emergency Services responded, along with a hazmat team.

Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson Jr. said people from approximately 72 nearby homes were sent to Quaker Valley High School’s gymnasium during the evacuation.

“We did an announcement, and we did a door by door knock to make sure that if there were any elderly residents there, that we got everybody out,” said Amos Cameron, Leetsdale’s emergency manager.

Henderson confirmed that two buildings caught fire from the initial chemical plant fire. Two chemicals were being released from the fire, ammonium persulfate and sodium chlorite, both of which Henderson said can cause inhalation problems.

One Lubrizol employee suffered chemical burns. Michalowski said he was near the initial reaction and was able to pull the fire alarm. Two other employees were taken to the hospital because of chest pains, likely caused by stress. All three were released from hospitals in the afternoon.

One firefighter was also treated but has been released as well. A Leetsdale councilman said a space in the borough office building is being made available to evacuees with pets.

People were asked to stay away from Route 65 in the Leetsdale area, Downs said via email. Buncher and Leetsdale business parks were being evacuated out of caution.

See the WTAE News 4 story and video here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

WPXI News 11 November 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

Crews battle hot spots after 5-alarm industrial fire; 2 more firefighters being treated

From WPXI, News 11, Pittsburgh, November 18, 2015

Firefighters returned Wednesday to Leetsdale Industrial Park to put out hot spots after a massive five-alarm industrial fire Tuesday.

Crews battled the blaze for hours Tuesday before it was brought under control. However, hot spots have flared up, forcing firefighters to return to the scene.

The site and buildings involved in the fire are owned by The Lubrizol Corp. The site is the company’s Oilfield Chemistry site. Buildings heavily damaged in the fire are expected to be demolished Wednesday.

Allegheny County Emergency Services officials issued an evacuation order Tuesday for all homes on Washington Street in Leetsdale Borough. Over 70 homes were evacuated, according to officials. 

Hazmat representatives visited residents door to door to relay the orders. Residents were evacuated to the Quaker Valley High School gymnasium and remained there until it was safe to return to their homes. Around 3:30 p.m., the evacuation order was lifted for Washington Street in Leetsdale Borough. 

Preschools in Ambridge, Aliquippa and Hopewell were told to keep children inside because of the fire and smoke blowing in that direction. Beaver County Emergency Services suggested Hopewell School District dismiss high school students early during the fire.

Officials said Wednesday that two firefighters from Emsworth are being treated at a hospital after being exposed to the smoke. On Tuesday, three firefighters from Leetsdale and one from Sewickley were treated. The fire chief  said they are OK.

Three workers were hospitalized, including one who was taken to Mercy Hospital with chemical burns. Two additional workers were evaluated on the scene but were not taken to the hospital.

Two chemicals, ammonium persulfate and sodium chlorite, were being released and are inhalation contact problems. At the height of the fire, flames could be seen shooting through the roof. 

Officials said one of the buildings appeared to be a total loss after it collapsed. The second building has significant fire and water damage.

Four of eight people who suffered injuries were firefighters, officials said.

Several residents in the area told Channel 11 News that they had problems evacuating because of a closed bridge. “The biggest problem is there wasn’t another entranceway to come back down onto the street. There is only one,” said Sandy Martin.

Martin grew up on Washington Street, and her mother still lives there. She’s upset the bridge couldn’t be used during evacuations. While the bridge is open to foot traffic, it’s been closed to vehicles since 2013.

Ambridge resident James Gibson talked to Channel 11 and said he reluctantly drove his daughter to work near the inferno. “They were telling people to close their windows, don’t come out in the air,” he said. “So now they have them coming to work. It don’t make sense to me.”

Ed Michalowski, a spokesman for Lubrizol, said he is thankful the fire didn’t cause any loss of life. “I’m glad everybody got out,” he said. “Everything else that’s there can be replaced.”

Anijah Kimbrough, a fourth-grade student in Ambridge, told Channel 11 that smoke forced a change of plans at the school. “We weren’t allowed to go outside or anything, we had to stay in the classroom.” 

The Allegheny County fire marshal will be investigating the cause of the fire. Early results from Lubrizol indicate that the fire started as hydraulic fracturing chemicals were transferred to a tank.

The Allegheny County Health Department is monitoring the air and said it is safe to breathe.



Dianne Bady December 2, 2015 at 10:33 am


Spraying chemical laden frack waste water onto fires -
when it is now KNOWN that these chemicals can themselves CAUSE fires!

I good bet WV’s politicians will think this is a swell idea, just as they are STILL
working hard to promote more mountaintop removal.

Dianne Bady


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