At 6:40 am, fire broke out following roof sealing and renovation work on a laboratory at a perfume plant. During welding operations the day before, a flash went undetected between two layers of insulation around the skylight. This insulating material (glued and bonded soft Isorel wood fibre panels) smouldered at night and ignited in the morning. The service company should have removed insulation along the skylight frame prior to installing a new layer, yet had failed to verify the quality. The sprinkler system activated. The alarm was sounded, personnel evacuated and all utility lines shut off. Despite the evacuation order, 2 subcontractors climbed onto the roof to move the propane bottles being used for the works. Internal emergency responders began battling the blaze, while awaiting the arrival of external fire-fighters, for 20 min after the alarm first sounded. The local press was informed of the situation around 8 am. A specialised subcontractor pumped and removed the extinction water confined to the premises. The discrepancy between pumped volume (3 m³) and actual volume used to fight the fire (5 m³) could be explained by the imbibed carpets, partitions and suspended ceilings. The buffer tank, positioned prior to discharge around the panel bonding workstation, was closed until knowing the results of analyses (pH, colour, etc.).
The fire was due to the subcontractor’s failure to comply with instructions indicated on the hot work permit, which nonetheless were comprehensive and adapted to the ongoing works. No chemical substance (e.g. citric acid) present in the room was involved in the fire. Damage amounted to 100,000: laboratory equipment, suspended ceilings. Before plant activity could resume, inspections of both the electrical system and gas network (N2, O2, H2) were conducted. The operator planned on meeting with fire-fighters to ensure more efficient collaboration. Working groups were set up to address improving alarm response, optimising internal organisation of the response and revising plant procedures in order to update the plant’s internal emergency plan. Since such an update had already been requested of the operator several times without success, a draft notification of non-compliance had been written up for Prefect review. Subsequent to site visits by the Inspection authorities for classified facilities in 2004, several actions were adopted, including installation of a general site evacuation siren with internal relays, acquisition of integrated equipment, training provided to the 27 members of the site’s emergency intervention squad, and a review of personnel evacuation guidelines.