Two small fires at metal finishing companies in Garden Grove and Orange made Sunday a hectic day for county hazardous materials crews, but both were extinguished without injuries or evacuations.
The more serious of the two blazes, at Coastline Metal Finishing in Garden Grove, caused a leak in a 20-gallon drum of cyanide, spilling some of the chemical--which is used in the process of metal plating--into water used to fight the fire.
Sixty-eight firefighters and hazardous materials specialists from four agencies responded to what eventually became a four-alarm fire in the 7000 block of Patterson Drive. The first firefighters on the scene shortly after the blaze broke out about 5 a.m. withdrew from the building when they saw flames advancing on the drum of cyanide.
"The flames were rapidly moving and about to envelop the container, so they withdrew from the building and called for help," said Capt. Bill Dumas of the Garden Grove Fire Department. "There didn't appear to be any explosions."
Hazardous materials specialists responded to the scene, along with firefighters from Anaheim, Santa Ana and the Orange County Fire Authority. The fire was extinguished about 5:25 a.m. Chemical reactions sparked a fire that was extinguished at 10:15 a.m., officials said.
Fire officials later found cyanide when they tested the runoff water used in fighting the fire, Dumas said.
After the area around the building was flushed with water, Orange County health officials tested the site, said Keith Osborn, battalion chief at the Garden Grove Fire Department. Osborn said the owner of the company will arrange for a private hauler to clean the inside of the building. The health officials found no contamination in nearby streets or storm drains.
"After they diluted the area, they put the material in drums and hauled it off to hazardous waste sites," Osborn said.
Three firefighters and an employee of the company were examined at Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center, Osborn said.
Fire officials still are investigating the cause of the fire, and no damage estimate has been determined.
In Orange, firefighters quickly controlled a blaze that started Sunday morning at Pacific Finishing in the 1500 block of East Orange Grove Avenue.
Orange Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Dombrowski said the 9:40 a.m. fire began after an overheated metal tank ignited an adjoining plastic tank. The metal tank had contained a liquid solvent, but was empty at the time of the fire, he said. Once the solvent had run out, a heating element inside the metal tank caused the rise in temperature, he said.
The fire generated considerable smoke, but firefighters were able to extinguish the flames in a matter of minutes, Dombrowski said. A hazardous materials team was called to the blaze, but no toxic chemicals had been released, he said.