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Burning dumpsters at N.Y. chemical plant cause shelter-in-place order

The fire in Solvay sent up a large plume of orange-colored smoke seen for miles


Solvay Fire Department/Facebook

By Darian Stevenson

SOLVAY, N.Y. — A fire that sent a large plume of orange-colored smoke seen for miles over parts of Solvay Sunday afternoon started in two large dumpsters, causing a shelter-in-place order for residents in the area, firefighters said.

The fire — burning in two 40-yard dumpsters and spreading to a third dumpster — started outside of a building at ChemTrade in Solvay, said Capt. Matt Craner, a spokesperson for the Syracuse Fire Department.

Around 1:36 p.m., the Solvay Fire Department was called to the facility at 24 Industrial Dr. off Willis Avenue for a report of a possible fire, Craner said. When firefighters arrived, they found the dumpsters containing products from the facility were on fire, he said.

Solvay firefighters identified the burning product as sodium nitrate. A company official on Monday clarified the substance in the fire was sodium nitrite. It is commonly used as food preservative but also can be used in metal treatment and in pharmaceuticals.

Solvay firefighters requested the Syracuse Fire Department HazMat Response Team, Craner said. On scene, firefighters applied large amounts of water in an effort to contain the flames, he said.

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Syracuse firefighters used Syracuse Engine 5′s elevated waterway to hit difficult-to-reach areas, Craner said. The fire was extinguished in about 45 minutes.

Craner said Solvay units activated a reverse 911 call to warn neighbors in the area to stay indoors and shelter in place. The shelter-in-place order was out of an abundance of caution for people to avoid potential hazards from the fire, he said.

There were no calls to Onondaga County 911 for medical issues from the smoke.

Solvay Mayor Derek Baichi said people took the shelter in place order seriously and stayed indoors, and that there was not a lot of traffic on the streets.

“[People in the area] saw this discolored smoke and they wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything to be of concern,” he said.

The fire sent a large plume of orange-colored smoke over parts of Solvay that could be seen for miles.

Air monitoring at the scene confirmed that there was no further hazard and the shelter in place order ended, Craner said.

ChemTrade representatives and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are on scene to determine what caused the fire and to clean-up the debris.

No one was injured during the fire, Craner said.

Baichi said he wanted to make sure the citizens were safe and that the air quality was good. He and his office plan to follow up with the community with updates on Monday.

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