Chemical plant goes up in flames

Residents urged to stay inside
March 28, 2008 8:26:22 PM PDT
A fire swept through a chemical plant in Mount Vernon Friday night, prompting a warning sent out to hundreds of residents.Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has more.

Flames shot through the roof and out the windows of KEM Chemical, located at 545 S. Fulton Avenue. The plant distributes supplies for the chemical and lab industries.

And with the spreading fire, the surrounding air became choked with fumes. Residents were urged to shut their windows and doors and stay inside.

"You don't know what chemicals could be in there, you don't know how volatile it could be," Martin Fensterstock said. "Some spark could set something off and make this an even bigger mess than it already is."

The plant has been in Mount Vernon since 1961. It also manufactures small-batch temperature-sensitive acid etchings and dilutions for its customers. Set in an industrial area, the blaze drew firefighting teams from Mount Vernon and nearby communities who tried to get the fire under control before it spread.

"When our units first rolled up, there was fire through the roof," Mount Vernon fire Chief Al Everett said. "We had a great amount of fire. Right from the beginning, we had to take a defensive posture, keeping everyone out and just putting copious amounts of water on it."

The fire department is advising residents in the surrounding area and in Pelham to take precautions while they investigate which chemicals were in the burning building.

Officials say those chemicals may include hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, alcohol and acetone. Some adjoining buildings also caught fire.