Rogers County Emergency Management (RCEM) Scotty Stokes gave an overview of the weekend fire at a chemical plant in Catoosa during a regular meeting Monday of the Rogers County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
Stokes said Advance Research Chemicals (ARC), located in the Port of Catoosa, had a major fire which appeared to have started on the second floor of a 10,000 square-foot two-story building around 2 a.m. Saturday morning.
The cause of the fire is still not known and calls to ARC officials on Monday were not returned before going to press.
“Originally, the fire was noticed by one of the workers at the plant. The workers tried to extinguish the fire but were unsuccessful,” Stokes said.
The workers followed immediate protocol by “tripping” the emergency shut-off valve to stop the inflow of chemicals from the large storage tanks located outside of the building, he said.
Tulsa Fire Department arrived on scene at ARC with approximately 20 apparatuses and approximately 55 fire department personnel from more than several support units, including the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Verdigris Fire Department responded to provide additional support if needed.
“RCEM responded with two units to assist with the Incident Commander with communications to county units and Tier II information at the facility and with port authorities,” Stokes said.
Using Tier II data, which is a reporting requirement according to the Department of Environmental Quality and TFD's HazMat Team, the chemicals of concern were iodine pentafluoride, iodine and anhydrous hydrogen fluoride.
Stokes said, “From what I found from the possible chemicals involved the maximum immediate evacuation area was listed at 330 feet.”
Port of Catoosa Authority officials used their alert system to notify surrounding industries and businesses for immediate evacuation up to a half mile.
Stokes said the fire was brought under control a couple of hours later, but some firefighters stayed for up to 12 hours.
“It was found that most likely any escaped chemicals did not reach the reporting threshold and no runoff dangers existed due to the small amounts of water used,” he added.
Water was mostly used to decontaminate the firefighters' gear and not on the fire itself due to the violent reaction of water with two of the chemicals.
Tulsa Fire Department is the primary response agency for fire emergencies at the port, established by an agreement in 1973, when there was a lack of surrounding resources.
Stokes also updated the commissioners on burn bans in effect around the state. “Currently, we are not under any current burn bans as reported in several other counties since we do not meet the requirements according to the Oklahoma Forestry Service.”