Quarter-mile radius evacuated due to chemical leak

Published: Sunday, June 30 2013 7:55 p.m. MDT

Firefighters spray water onto the roof of a warehouse in an effort to keep potentially explosive chemicals cooler. Firefighters and the military respond Sunday, June 30, 2013, to a chemical spill in a warehouse at 421 N. John Glenn Road in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City fire and hazmat crews were involved in a tense situation Sunday night with an unstable chemical that had the potential to explode.

Late Sunday night, the department came up with a plan to remove the dangerous chemical and put it in a trench that was being dug overnight by Salt Lake City police. Then sometime Monday about mid-morning, crews plan to safely detonate the explosive material.

The incident began just after 9:30 a.m., when Salt Lake City fire crews were called to a small fire at Quality Distribution Inc., 421 N. John Glenn Road (6070 West). The fire was extinguished quickly, but as an investigator was going through the building a few hours later, he found that Trigonox was leaking.

By 6 p.m., a full assignment was recalled to the warehouse as well as additional help from other agencies including the U.S. Army and the Salt Lake International Airport.

Salt Lake City fire spokesman Jasen Asay said Trigonox is an organic peroxide that can become unstable at 68 degrees, and when the temperature reaches 77 degree the process cannot be reversed at all and the chemical cannot be stabilized. Because of the earlier fire, the refrigeration in the building was not working, he said. Asay said by Sunday night, the temperature of the chemical had surpassed 77 degrees.

For the chemical to explode, it needs to be triggered by a "shock," Asay said. That could be just static electricity or even a piece of metal falling to the floor and creating a small spark. The explosive force would be about the equivalent of a pipe bomb, he said.

Approximately 2,400 gallons of Trigonox are believed to be stored in the building in five gallon drums. Asay said five of those drums were believed to be leaking Sunday.

Late Sunday, Salt Lake police helped fire crews and started digging a trench, about 60-feet long and 4-feet deep. The plan, Asay said, was for a couple of hazmat crew members from Salt Lake City and Murray Fire to enter the building and use a forklift to take the damaged barrels to the loading dock where a second team will use a fork lift to take the barrels to the trench. Once the damaged barrels were in the trench, Asay said crews would detonated the explosive chemical.

There was no set time on when that would happen. But Asay said it would likely be about mid-morning Monday.

Asay said crews believed that not all of the barrels of Trionox had surpassed 77 degrees. Those barrels would be moved by forklift to a refrigerated trailer, he said.

A 2,000-foot radius around Quality Distribution was evacuated Sunday night. Asay said crews were still trying to determine if the Trigonox was the cause of the earlier fire, or the leak was the result of the fire happening first.

By 7:30 p.m., crews sprayed cold water on the roof of the building in an attempt to keep it cool.

On its website, Quality Distribution described itself as "a customized public warehouse and distribution business and is one of the largest service providers of storage/distribution/and delivery in the Intermountain West." The company deals with hazardous materials and chemicals, among other products, regularly.

Additional information will be posted as it becomes available Monday morning.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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