Chemical fire makes for difficult battle at Waste Authority in Utica

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A chemical fire at the Leland Avenue recycling facility on the grounds of Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority in Utica kept fire crews busy throughout Tuesday afternoon, breaking out around 2 p.m. in the rear part of the recycling center and causing most employees to be evacuated.

Smoke could be seen from blocks away, and when the Utica Fire Department arrived on scene, they found the fire located in the rear portion of the recycling center. It quickly became clear to firefighters that they were dealing with much more than a standard fire.

They soon learned they were dealing with a hazardous materials situation, which became obvious when the more water firefighters poured onto the flames, the worse it got. The water actually added to the fire because it was a chemical known as calcium quicklime that was burning.

The calcium quicklime is believed to have come from Special Metals and officials say it should been brought to the landfill in Ava and buried and not to the Solid Waste Authority. Authorities are looking into how the chemicals ended up at the Waste Authorities.

Fire officials requested crews from Griffiss Air Force Base, who responded to the scene, bringing with them another extinguishing agent, this one a dry agent and used it to help put out the fire.

All but six employees at the Solid Waste Authority were sent home when the fire broke out. Those six were kept on the scene because officials said they had been exposed to the calcium quicklime and were being examined by Hazmat crews before being released.

It was not believed that there were any health concerns stemming from the incident, but resident in the surrounding area near Leland Ave were asked to keep their doors and windows shut as a precautionary measure until officials could determine any potential health risks.

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