Smokey fire burns day after Detroit-area chemical plant explosion
ROMULUS, Mich. – Hundreds of people were advised to stay away from their homes Wednesday as a fire at a suburban Detroit chemical plant sent acrid smoke over their neighborhoods.At least 32 people, including firefighters, were treated at hospitals for breathing difficulties or burning sensations in their mouths, Oakwood Healthcare System spokesman Tom Worobec said.Some firefighters also suffered heat-related illnesses as they fought the fire.Witnesses said they heard several loud explosions shortly before 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday at the E.Q. Resource Recovery Inc. plant in Romulus, then saw flames and smoke shoot into the sky. The facility recycles chemicals such as airplane deicing fluid and industrial paint solvents.Mayor Alan R. Lambert said one tank exploded, setting off others. The cause of the first explosion had not been determined.The fire died down by dawn, and crews moved in with water and foam. A small hotspot burned Wednesday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Hazardous materials officials tested the air quality and found no danger present, Romulus Public Safety Director Chief Charles Kirby said, but EPA workers were conducting more tests.Eight employees were in the plant before the explosions, but they evacuated when an emergency horn sounded.”They really couldn’t tell us anything real concrete that would tell us what caused this,” company spokesman Dan Gilbert said. “As soon as the situation stabilizes, we’re going to start an investigation.”About 150 homes in Romulus and 750 homes in neighboring Wayne remained evacuated Wednesday afternoon. Many residents took refuge in two schools or with relatives.Romulus, about 25 miles southwest of Detroit, is home to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Mike Conway, a spokesman for the airport, said flights were not affected by the fire.
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