An explosion and fire occurred around 10 am in a glue factory. A large black smoke cloud formed and partially drifted over the neighbouring urban area. Since atmospheric conditions were unfavourable for the plume to rise and disperse, rescue services asked residents to remain indoors; 3 schools located along the plume trajectory were evacuated. The substances involved in the ignition were solvents (toluene and xylene), PVC and finished products (polyurethane mastic and glues). A safety perimeter was set up. First responders controlled the blaze in 2½ hours. Confinement measures were lifted around 1:30 pm; monitoring rounds continued throughout the day. A technician had been filling a 25-litre metal bucket from a 1,000-litre container of solvent using an explosion-proof pump and an antistatic plastic hose, which in touching the side of the bucket caused a spark to ignite the liquid. The technician alerted his colleagues, who responded with extinguishers, but by that time the fire had spread to the container and quickly developed into a blaze. Since the fire door between the central workshop and solvent storage room had remained open, flames entered the workshop and destroyed it along with the stock of finished products, packaging supplies and admixtures. The heat flux generated by the fire melted skylights in both the depot lobby and workshop, thereby further spreading this conflagration. The underground storage of raw materials (MDI, etc.) and 2 workshops protected by fire doors were spared. This event was widely covered by the media through local radio broadcasts of the confinement orders. Property damage and operating losses were appraised at 70 and 50 million francs, respectively. Technical unemployment is expected. The environmental impact was limited; the public health investigation reported no cases of intoxication from smoke inhalation, while soil and water analyses did not detect any significant pollution incident. The fire outbreak was likely due to an electrostatic discharge during the solvent transfer process. The pallet truck had not been placed at ground level, and the technician was not wearing electrostatic shoes. Subsequent to this accident, conservatory measures were adopted, namely: inspection of all installations and control of site operating conditions, Prefecture order banning a resumption of activity and prescribing measures for waste pollution cleanup, storage and elimination.

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