Six firefighters ended up in the hospital Tuesday after exposure to a “chemical haze” coming from a warehouse in Carteret, NJ, officials said.
Firefighters responding to the warehouse around 2 a.m. found smoke, but no flames, said Carteret fire Chief Mark Hruska. “It was smoke from a chemical reaction,” he said.
The haze coming from the 500,000-square-foot facility was from a chemical reaction of acrylate monomer, Hruska said.
According to property tax records, the warehouse is owned by Cyprus Amax Minerals Company. The company doesn’t process the chemicals, but rather houses the raw materials for overseas shipment, Hruska said.
The warehouse manager had arrived at the facility early Tuesday morning and reported the smoke to the fire department. Thinking it was a fire, the manager had opened the doors to ventilate the facility before firefighters arrived. When the firefighters got to the scene, “they were hit with a down draft that had blown out of the warehouse,” Hruska said.
The firefighters went to Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center for precautionary measures, he said.
They were experiencing respiratory-related issues, Hruska said, including sore throats.
There are four drums of chemicals that must undergo a process of “polymerization,” Hruska said.
“There is a chemical reaction with the product in the drum, and it generates its own heat,” he said. “The problem has been contained; there is no danger to the residents. The only structure that is involved is the warehouse.”
Officials used “water streams” to cool the drums.
“And that is going to go on until we can bring the temperature to a safe level, and hazmat crews can mitigate the process,” Hruska said.
Two tenants at the facility also evacuated, he said.
Hruska said there would be an “extended operation” until Wednesday afternoon. But, he said, “until the all clear is given” the facility will remain closed.