By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — BEVERLY — Firefighters say a blaze they extinguished at a chemical storage unit on Sohier Road yesterday morning was caused by the improper storage of rags.
Truck 1, Truck 2, Engine 3 and Capt. Russell Halloran responded to 150 Sohier Road after an 8:22 a.m. report that smoke was coming from the door to a storage unit there, according to a press release from Deputy fire Chief Peter O’Connor.
“Upon arrival, Capt. Halloran observed smoke coming from the container and advised his responding crews to stand by at a safe distance until proper identification of the material stored in the container and the hazards it presented could be determined,” O’Connor said in the release.
“Once it was determined safe to do so, apparatus was brought closer to the scene and firefighters further investigated the source of the smoke.”
Working with facility employees, firefighters determined the blaze was inside a container that held potassium permanganate — an oxidizing agent — as well as rags and buckets used for cleaning up.
“The fire involved the rags and a bucket,” O’Connor said. “At no time were the containers of the stored chemical involved in the fire.”
The fire was extinguished with help from the crew of Truck 2, led by Lt. Matthew Kowalski, who is also a technician on the state Hazardous Materials Team. Capt. Jeff Sirois, also a member of that team, conducted the ensuing investigation.
“It was determined that improper storage of rags used to clean up solution of potassium permanganate caused the rags to ignite, in turn igniting a plastic bucket,” O’Connor said, noting that the fire damage was “minimal” and limited to the container itself.
The container, which is owned by Shaw Environmental, had two fire-suppression systems: a dry chemical system, which activated and kept the fire from getting worse, and a sprinkler system, which did not activate because the fire hadn’t gotten hot enough to trigger it, O’Connor said.
Crews remained on scene until 9:44 a.m. and fire investigators until 10:34 a.m.
Firefighters from Salem, Danvers and Manchester provided station coverage during the incident.