MERIDEN — A Monday fire at CRC Chrome on Pratt Street started after employees put paint thinner into a heated rinse tank, causing a flash fire, fire officials said Tuesday.
Emergency crews from seven towns, including a regional hazmat team from Guilford, responded to the 169 Pratt St. plating company just before 11 a.m. on Monday for a report of a fire. Two employees from CRC Chrome were taken to the Bridgeport Hospital burn unit with “fairly significant” thermal burns, Fire Chief Ken Morgan said.
Firefighters carefully brought the fire under control due to the presence of multiple chemicals inside the facility, Morgan said. Crews placed plywood across vats of chemicals to prevent water from the fire hoses from interacting with it, Morgan said. Most of the chemicals would not have created a problem, but some would react with water, so Morgan said crews worked more cautiously than they normally would when extinguishing a fire. He said crews normally don’t worry about how much water they have to use to douse a fire.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was also on site to monitor the situation and test any runoff. Morgan said all of the chemicals stayed inside the building and the air quality was tested by the DEEP crew. In a statement DEEP said there was no acid gas release during the incident. Hydrochloric acid was present in the building, but it was not impacted by the fire, said DEEP spokesman Will Healey. DEEP concluded its involvement on Monday and no cleanup was required.
Morgan said the tank that the employees poured the paint thinner into was 220 degrees, which caused it to boil over. During this incident firefighters were using ladders and cutting holes in the walls and roof of the building to get to all the pockets of fire, Morgan said.
“We have to be very methodical to prevent further problems,” Morgan said.
Another consideration was the heat and humidity, which can take a toll on the crews wearing 65 pounds of gear. With such a large response, crews were able to rotate and prevent any members from becoming dehydrated, which is a common concern at a scene like this, Morgan said.
Morgan said the building inspector responded and power was cut to the site. Custom Plating and Polishing is also located at the same address and a man that answered the phone said no one from their company was injured in the incident on Monday.
Morgan said a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was at the scene Monday and toured the area.