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Burning barrel creates hazmat incident, evacuation in Tenn. city

Fumigation chemicals submerged in water floated and began to burn, creating a toxic cloud in Lebanon


Lebanon Fire Department/Facebook

By Abbey Nutter
The Lebanon Democrat

LEBANON, Tenn. — The Lebanon square was evacuated on Monday morning due to a fire that emitted toxic gas.

The Lebanon Police Department, Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, and the Lebanon Fire Department all responded to the scene.

“When it becomes a toxic gas, the main thing to worry about is inhalation hazards,” WEMA B Shift Commander Lee Bowling said.

Police blocked off the square as crews worked the scene.

“With the way the wind was blowing, (the gas) was blowing towards the square,” Lebanon Police Department Public Information Officer Richard Clark said. “We evacuated the businesses and were fortunate that the Lebanon Fire Department and WEMA were able to get it under control fairly quickly.”

Over the weekend, Shenandoah Mills, located at 145 South Cumberland St., fumigated its building.

“This morning, there was a 55-gallon barrel sitting outside that ignited and created fumes,” Lebanon Mayor Rick Bell said. “The Lebanon Fire Department worked really hard to get it (put) out as soon as possible but decided (as a) precaution to evacuate the square.”

On Monday morning, Shenandoah Mills went through its normal routine of deactivating the chemicals used for fumigation.

“Part of that process is it goes into a basket and they submerge it in water and let it sit,” Lebanon Fire Department Assistant Chief Nick McCorkle said. “At some point during this process, some of it floated and got some air. That’s when a chemical reaction took place. It flashed at that point. When it caught fire, the fumes and the vapors that it was putting off were very dangerous.”

When the fire department arrived, they secured the scene and called WEMA for hazmat techs to come to the scene.

“We got on the scene,” Bowling said. “We did our research, came up with a game plan, and the decision was made that we were going to put it out. We were initially going to use water, but then, we determined that sand might be best.”

Together, the Lebanon Fire Department and WEMA personnel contained the fire.

“Initially, they said that we could put copious amounts of water on the product, which was still in a 55-gallon drum,” McCorkle said. “We didn’t really want to do that with runoff being a possibility. It was also determined that we could use sand.”

From there, the fire department called the public works department to bring in sand.


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“Our guys and WEMA personnel donned all the proper (equipment) that we needed, and they carried sand in there and started pouring it into the drum to smother the fire,” McCorkle said. “From that point, a clean-up crew was called to come in. It was deemed safe, and we started opening roadways and the square back up.”

An environmental clean-up crew will be monitoring the drum.

“As soon as it stops generating heat, they’re going to haul it off and dispose of it,” Bowling said.

Because it backs up to Shenandoah Mills, the Wilson County Courthouse was also evacuated.

No one was hurt as a result of the incident.

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