Responders battling a foundry fire Friday in Enfield, Connecticut, immediately dismissed the idea of using water once they learned what was burning – magnesium.
Three workers at Yankee Casting, a high-tech, precision casting plant, suffered minor burns. Another worker was admitted to a local hospital for smoke inhalation, the Journal Inquirer newspaper reports.
Magnesium burns incredibly hot, easily reaching temperatures of 5,600 degrees Fahrenheit. At that heat, water instantly evaporates into hydrogen and oxygen. Unfortunately, the oxygen combines with the magnesium vapors to aggravate rather than mediate the fire.
Instead, firefighters opted to use a Class D chemical fire extinguisher, extinguishing the blaze within 45 minutes of arriving.
Firefighters contained the blaze to a small area protected by firewalls, the newspaper reports. Damage to the building was limited.