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'Chlorine-type chemical' at fire causes shelter-in-place order for West Manchester area

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

West Manchester Township and West York borough residents might have seen or smelled a strange chemical cloud in the sky Monday morning.

The noxious cloud was caused by a chlorine-type chemical stored in 55-gallon drums outside a shed that caught fire about 4:30 a.m., said West Manchester Township Fire Chief Clif Laughman.

A shelter-in-place order was issued by the York County Office of Emergency Management, which said the vapors being emitted could cause adverse health conditions. The order was lifted before 9:30 a.m.

Crews responded to the shed fire at 4:30 a.m. Monday and finished up at 9:30 a.m., Laughman said.

A HAZMAT truck driver works atop the vehicle at the scene of a shed fire on Monroe Street in West Manchester Township Monday, July 6, 2020. All residents within a half-mile radius of the affected area, located at 2100 Monroe St. in West Manchester Township, are advised to "stay indoors with windows and doors closed," a news release states. Bill Kalina photo

"When the shed caught fire, it caused the chemical to go on fire," he said.

The shed is operated by ECA Water Systems and located on property owned by Bricker's Famous French Fries, at 2100 Monroe St.

There was no damage to the Bricker's building, but the single shed was completely demolished, Laughman said.

The cause of the fire is undetermined at the time, and damage estimates for the shed are $1,000. The chemicals stored outside the shed were estimated to be worth between $14,000 and $16,000, Laughman said.

Shane Louthian, a partner representing ECA Water Systems, said the chemical vapors were emitted into the air when water was used to extinguish the flames.  

"I think they were irritating, but I don't believe they were dangerous," Louthian said.

Firefighters are surrounded by a haze at the scene of a shed fire on Monroe Street in West Manchester Township Monday, July 6, 2020. All residents within a half-mile radius of the affected area, located at 2100 Monroe St. in West Manchester Township, are advised to "stay indoors with windows and doors closed," a news release states. Bill Kalina photo

Laughman said the chlorine-like substance is typically used in fracking and can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

"The best way to handle that is to just get some fresh air and get water onto you," Laughman said.

 York Area United Fire and Rescue and the York County Haz-Mat Team assisted at the scene.

The shelter-in-place notification affected all residents within a half-mile radius of the blaze. Residents were advised to "stay indoors with windows and doors closed" and to turn off ventilation systems, according to a news release shared by FEMA from the York County Office of Emergency Management.

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