Y2017-01 Industrial fires in Satakunta in January 2017
There were two major industrial fires in the Finnish region of Satakunta within four days in late January 2017.
In Pomarkku, a plastic process shelf in the storage yard of a production plant specialising in recycling caught fire on 26 January 2017. During a product changeover, a hot plastic mass was removed from production machinery to cool down in the storage yard. While there, the hot plastic mass exceptionally continued to heat up and ignited.
There was a delay in detecting the ignition. The fire brigade was unable to extinguish the fire with water and it took time to prepare for foam extinguishing. Intense heat from the burning plastic radiated to the adjoining stockpiles over a total distance of around 5,000 square metres. The fire was extinguished around nine hours after its detection.
The fire destroyed around 200 tonnes of plastic brought to the production plant as a raw material, and one storage container and warehouse. The destroyed material was worth a few thousand euros. Three firefighters involved in extinguishing operations were slightly injured.
In Pori, a fire began on 30 January 2017 in the central section of a titanium dioxide factory building that is over a 100 metres wide and 400 metres long. The fire was spotted in the area of electrostatic precipitators used to clean process gases from calcination furnaces. The fire spread very quickly along a process gas pipe made of flammable material, installed on the roof. The process gas pipe spread the fire across the entire width of the building in minutes.
Extinguishing the fire was difficult due to the large size and height of the building. Strong smoke generation impeded the extinguishing of the fire and the evaluation of its extent and spread. Distances inside the building and therefore the clearing distances of the fire brigade's hose equipment were long. Burning material, which started fires in the lower levels, fell from above. The firefighters found it difficult to move around inside, due to the darkness, labyrinthine interior and lack of knowledge of the site. There was a danger that structures weakened by the fire would collapse.
The active fire extinguishing phase lasted for 20 hours, after which units could be removed from the site. The fire brigade handed the site back to the owner around two days after the fire had broken out.
An area of roofing of around 15,000 m2 was damaged in the factory area. In the facilities under the roof, the damage ranged from total destruction to minor damage. The total amount of material damage came to tens of millions of euros. One of the firefighters involved in extinguishing operations was slightly injured.
Titanium dioxide production at the plant was interrupted due to the fire. The entrepreneur estimates that the plant will resume operation at full capacity by the end of 2018.
The Safety Investigation Authority recommends the following:
• Together with the Rescue Department, the Ministry of the Interior should ensure that, in their rescue planning, industrial premises prepare for fires identified as longer-lasting or more extensive, or other long-lasting and extensive incidents.
• The Rescue Departments’ partner network should plan arrangements based on which the use of foam as an extinguishing agent is always fast and thorough, and ask the rescue departments to implement such arrangements.
• The Ministry of the Environment should supplement the instructions included in the fire safety regulations for buildings, stating that the principles of fire compartmentalisation also apply to external pipelines and other installations.
• The Finnish Plastics Industries Federation should perform or commission a report charting the fire risks associated with plastic recycling and provide the recycling sector with information and good practices on preventing ignition and large fires.