The large industrial fire that broke out at Chemtool on June 14 has been deemed accidental, according to a Friday news release from Rockton Fire Protection District.
On the morning of the fire—shortly before firefighters were dispatched at 7 a.m. June 14 to Chemtool—workers had been replacing insulation on an elevated heat transfer piping network that was part of the site’s system for heating certain vessels used in the manufacturing of lubricating greases. The network of piping carried heated mineral oil.
That morning, an employee of an outside contractor performing the insulation replacement project was working in the area of the fire’s origin. The worker was using a scissor lift to access the elevated heat transfer piping network.
While the employee of the outside contractor was working in the area, a release occurred from the elevated piping. An unknown amount of mineral oil immediately began falling and pooling on the floor in the area of origin.
Chemtool operators promptly detected the release and shut down the boiler. They were in the process of placing containment booms and depressurizing the heat transfer piping network when the fire ignited.
“At the present time, the most credible scenario is that the scissor lift struck a valve or other piece of piping with sufficient mechanical force to cause the release of mineral oil. The investigation has not yet determined the source of ignition,” a press release stated.
While the fire was active, the site was closed to investigators. The U.S. Chemical Safety Hazard Investigation Board has dispatched investigators to the Chemtool site, and they have consulted with local and federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals used to fight Chemtool fire, the Rockton fire chief reported.