A series of explosions greeted firefighters trying to find their way through a smokey chemical plant in northeastern Massachusetts Thursday morning.
Firefighters with the Newburyport Fire Department responded to PCI Synthesis, a plant making ingredients used in medicines, at about 4:35 a.m. to check an active fire alarm. Upon arrival, firefighters encountered heavy smoke in a chemical production room.
Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Bradbury told news media that the firefighters “immediately encountered three explosions” that forced firefighters to retreat. A second set of three explosions followed about 10 minutes later, blowing a 5-by-8-foot hole in the building’s roof.
Bradbury would not comment on the cause of the blasts and what, if any, chemicals were involved.
Firefighters declared a Tier 2 hazardous materials incident which activates a regional team of specially trained professionals with specialized equipment. Using robots, the hazmat teams entered the plant and conducted testing.
“Upon conferring with business managers, it was determined that there was no danger to the surrounding community,” a press release issued by the Newburyport Police states. The building was returned to its owners at about 1:30 p.m.
Plant personnel on duty at the time of the fire had safely evacuated the building before firefighters arrived. One employee was evaluated by medical personnel but declined to be transported to a hospital.
Three nearby businesses unable to open Thursday morning were back in operation by mid-day. Newburyport public schools opened two hours late due mainly to weather.