Workers at a sewage plant in Jacksonville, FL, needed medical treatment after a fire ignited and hydrogen sulfide gas released into the air.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the blaze started Tuesday morning at the plant operated by JEA, the municipal utility.
As a result of the fire and gas release, a nearby shopping center also ended up evacuated, but no homes needed to flee from the incident.
Fire spokesman Tom Francis said the fumes from the fire posed no public safety hazard.
Five contractors, who were laying a new roof on the facility, and two JEA employees, ended up hospitalized after breathing in the fumes. They were in stable condition.
The gas, a natural by-product of sewage treatment, posed no environmental or public safety hazard, Francis said. The fire was just a stubborn smoldering in the pipes that took some time to put out.
As the contractors were laying a new tar roof on the facility a fiberglass pipe caught fire. Firefighters arrived at the scene at 9:45 a.m.
“There was grayish-white smoke on the roof and the crews could observe workers trying to extinguish the fire,” Francis said. “Our crews ran them off and promptly had that fire contained. However, it appears that embers or burning insulation from the air handler started to smoulder in the piping system.”
When power ended up cut to the building’s ventilation system to fight the fire, the rotten eggs smell of hydrogen sulfide began to grow and that is when fire officials evacuated a strip mall directly to the east and the Sheriff’s Office blocked nearby traffic.
Francis said while the gas odor was “quite significant,” air tests showed its levels were not harmful.
The fire was under control at 1 p.m., thermal imaging cameras used to find the hot spots found the pipes flooded with water, Francis said.