New Martinsville, Moundsville, and Washington Lands firefighters responded to the PPG Industries Natrium facility at 6:45 p.m. Saturday for a chemical fire. Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Hart reported that Wetzel and Marshall county sheriff's deputies and New Martinsville police officers were called to shut down a section of state Route 2 for about 10 minutes as a precaution.
Jeremy Neuhart, manager of PPG's Corporate Public Relations, states that the fire, which was reported in the plant's calcium hypochlorite (cal-hypo) warehouse, was extinguished at 7:45 p.m. Hart stated firefighters from outside agencies monitored the scene for hot spots for approximately two hours after the fire was extinguished. According to New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Larry Couch, NMVFD personnel were released from the PPG scene at approximately 10 p.m. The PPG fire brigade was still watching the scene Sunday.
Hart stated that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. PPG will conduct an internal investigation and, when that is complete, will meet with all the fire departments that responded Saturday.
A fire in a calcium hypochlorite (cal-hypo) warehouse at PPG Industries’ Natrium facility just north of Proctor is still under investigation. The Saturday blaze prompted PPG to seek assistance from the New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department, an unusual, if not unheard of. Two other departments were also on standby for the incident. (Photos provided by Jamie Benson)
Neuhart reports that although a chlorine smell may have been detected in the local area, there were no offsite environmental or health concerns.
The NMVFD responded with units from both the Steelton and Ohio Street Station fire departments. Several other New Martinsville area volunteer fire departments also responded to the scene. Eleven NMVFD firefighters were deployed into the plant to assist the PPG and Bayer fire brigades in bringing the blaze under control.
The Steelton engine was the first outside unit to arrive on the scene. Couch states, "They were deployed to assist PPG and Bayer personnel working on the west side of the burning structure, while the department's ladder truck, along with a second fire engine from Ohio Street Station, were deployed on the east side of the structures to assist PPG personnel with exposure protection and fire control from that damage point."
Couch states, "Since my involvement with the department, beginning back in 1983, we have never been asked to assist in either of the plants for a large-scale emergency, such as the one they experienced on Saturday evening. The two plants have always been able to control internal incidents without outside assistance and have a long standing history of working safely in the plant as well as in the community. We were simply glad to be able to help PPG bring the incident under control successfully with only one minor injury."
One NMVFD firefighter suffered minor effects of being overexerted during the incident; he was transported to Wetzel County Hospital by Tri-State Ambulance where he was treated and released the next morning.
Couch adds that additional NMVFD personnel manned the stations during the incident, while a crew from the Grandview Volunteer Fire Department moved to the Steelton station to be ready for deployment and Paden City Volunteer Fire Company was on stand-by throughout the incident.
New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Larry Couch also reports that a Sunday afternoon fire at the New Martinsville Villas resulted in minor damage. New Martinsville firefighters responded to a blaze in a dryer in the complex's laundry room reported at 12:50 p.m. NMVFD personnel were assisted on the scene by Wetzel County EMS and New Martinsville Police. Fire damage was contained to the dryer with minor smoke and water damage to the laundry room and adjoining offices.
Couch reports that nine NMVFD firefighters, along with five apparatuses, responded to the call and were able to contain and extinguish the fire quickly. Firefighters remained on scene for 45 minutes to clear the structure of smoke and water.
Couch adds that damages from the fire were estimated at $1,500 and there were no injuries. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.