A forklift fork triggers a violent fire of flammable finished products

In a Seveso chemical plant specialising in silicones, a forklift driver was handling a pallet loaded with 200-litre drums of highly flammable silicone oils (siloxanes) in a 2,500 m² logistics hangar. The forklift fork accidentally pierced one of the barrels shortly before noon. The driver placed the damaged pallet in a mobile retention device retrieved from the nearby storage cell and then moved it outside the hangar. The leaking product ignited on a hot-spot caused by the trolley’s metal forks (non-ATEX) scraping along the ground. The technician grabbed a nearby powder extinguisher and tried to control the flames but he was rapidly engulfed and died.

The guard station received the alarm from the fire detection system 11:55 a.m., and then alerted the platform’s firefighters. Arriving on site in less than 5 minutes, the firemen fought the fire with 2 foam trucks. Aware of the intensity of the fire, the operator initiated the site’s internal contingency plan around 12:10 pm and the 750 employees were confined indoors. The emergency rescue services arrived at around 12:20 p.m. with 50 vehicles and about 100 men. A large plume of black smoke, visible from afar, rose above the hangar. Residents of a nearby neighbourhood overlooking the site gathered in a park to observe the fire.

The intensity of the fire in an urban area justified the implementation of a special intervention plan

As the site was located next to an urban highway, the prefect initiated a special intervention plan at 1:10 p.m. The primary schools in the 3 nearby municipalities were confined for one hour. The motorway and its access roads were blocked, causing numerous traffic jams. The fire was brought under control at around 1:50 p.m. thanks to massive deployment of foam canons. The special intervention plan was lifted at 2:25 p.m. and access to the motorway was re-established. One of the site’s internal firefighters was injured slightly and an employee suffered a heat stroke. Both were taken to the hospital. The fire destroyed 600 m² of the hangar and burnt 120 of the 230 tonnes of finished products being stored there. The plant was shut down for a week. The 900 m³ of extinguishing water was kept in a retention basin pending processing or a skimming treatment in a settling tank.