Evacuation order lifted for 70-plus homes near fracking chemical warehouse that caught fire

LEETSDALE, Pa. – Workers at a Pennsylvania warehouse were pouring hydraulic fracturing chemicals into a production tank Tuesday when a fire started, forcing residents from more than 70 nearby homes for several hours and injuring several people, emergency and company officials said.

Hazardous materials crews moved people living near the warehouse in Leetsdale to a high school gymnasium as a precaution. They were allowed to return after crews announced the fire was largely under control just before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The fire was at Lubrizol Corp.’s Oilfield Chemistry site about 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

The company and Allegheny County Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson said three employees were injured. One reportedly had a burned hand and two inhaled fumes, Henderson said. Several firefighters were also being evaluated for inhaling fumes. None of the injuries was deemed life-threatening, Henderson and the company said.

The fire was reported about 10:10 a.m. Flames shot from the roof and dark grey smoke could be seen for miles as two buildings burned and firefighters tried to keep six others from burning.

Lubrizol workers were working with emergency crews to contain the fire and protect homes and businesses, the company said.

Henderson said the primary danger to the public would be inhaling fumes from two chemicals: ammonium persulfate and sodium chlorite. Both irritate the respiratory system, and could cause more problems for people who already have difficulty breathing, though neither would be considered life-threatening, Henderson said.