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Chemical Fire Closes Otay Mesa Road

Times Staff Writer

Fire officials closed half a mile of Maxwell Road near the Otay Mesa landfill Monday after a chemical fire broke out at a hazardous-waste disposal company near the dump’s entrance, authorities said.

The fire, which started about 6 a.m. and produced a small, poisonous cloud, occurred when workers at Appropriate Technologies II were moving 15 to 20 steel and plastic barrels, containing dry chlorine and toxic soil, and six of the plastic drums ignited, said Sam Schreck, Chula Vista fire inspector.

The workers at the company, in the 1700 block of Maxwell Road, controlled the flames, which erupted from an apparent chemical reaction, Schreck said. None of the steel barrels caught fire, but they did bulge from the heat of the burning plastic barrels, he said.

Teams from the San Diego County and San Diego hazardous materials units answered the alarm, along with Chula Vista firefighters, Schreck said. They used water from fire hoses to break up the small toxic cloud, which was about 30 feet above the yard, he said.

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After two firefighters wearing protective suits and breathing equipment entered the blaze area, the agencies decided to inspect each drum, Schreck said.

They found some of the remaining dozen drums to still be hot, he said. Those drums were reopened, broken down into smaller five-gallon containers, then treated in a thermal reactor, which neutralizes the chlorine, Schreck said. The contents of the remaining barrels were repacked into sterile drums and also neutralized.

Schreck said the company did not appear to have violated any toxic-waste disposal regulations but that state landfill investigators are also looking into the cause of the fire.

No one was injured in the blaze and no nearby residents were evacuated because the nearest homes are about 2 miles west of the landfill, which was closed all day, he said.

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