Chemical reaction forces businesses to evacuate
BRATTLEBORO -- Emergency crews responded Friday morning to a report of smoke inside the Bennett Drive building housing C.E. Bradley Laboratory, Inc.
The Brattleboro Fire Department received a call from an employee shortly after 8 a.m. There was no smoke visible outside the building and light smoke inside when the fire department arrived, according to Fire Chief Michael Bucossi.
Surrounding businesses, located off Putney Road, were evacuated, including Supreme Fitness, R.O.V. Technologies, Holyoke News Co., Inc., and Thermal House. Shortly after 4 p.m. they were informed that they could re-enter their buildings.
Bucossi explained that the chemical reaction that caused the smoke occurred when several ingredients were left in a 250-gallon vat overnight.
"Yesterday at 2 p.m. they started mixing a batch," said Bucossi.
He said he didn't know what the substance's intended use was, but it was missing an ingredient that the employees did not have in-house and had not yet arrived.
Two ingredients in the incomplete batch began reacting through the night and became very hot.
"They started to combust," Bucossi said. "Because there were so many chemicals involved in the mixture, and we didn't know what it was off-gasing, we moved very slowly and cautiously."
There were no injuries.
The fire department helped five C.E. Bradley employees add water to the mixture, slowly bringing down the temperature until it formed a chemically stable sludge.
A Vermont Emergency Management team, Brattleboro HAZMAT, Brattleboro Police Department, Brattleboro Public Works Department, the Brattleboro town manager, Keene, N.H. Fire Department and HAZMAT, Putney Fire Department, Greenfield, Mass. Fire Department, Northfield, Mass. Fire Department and Rescue Inc. responded. The Hinsdale Fire Department covered the Brattleboro central station.
At about 5 p.m. Friday, most of the crews were clearing the scene. Bucossi said some members of the fire department would stay while C.E. Bradley employees added one last chemical to the mixture to loosen it up enough to pour it into 50 gallon drums and take it outside.
C.E. Bradley President Rashed Kanaan said the product his employees were mixing was one the company regularly manufactures.
"We have a very exemplary safety record," he said. "In my 20-plus years here, we've never had something like this happen."
He said employees called for outside help when they determined the problem was outside the scope of the company's own contingency plan. The employees and members of the fire department took care of the situation together.
"We made some decisions about what corrective actions were needed, and we were able to diffuse the situation very quickly," Kanaan said.
He expects C.E. Bradley to resume regular operations Monday morning.
According to its website, C.E. Bradley Laboratories, Inc., and its family of related companies, manufacture and sell coatings for the wood, metal, graphic arts and plastic industries.
"Through quality products and expert hands on technical assistance, C.E. Bradley Laboratories assists its customers in color matching, coatings design, application methods and regulatory assistance," the website states.
C.E. Bradley has been in business for more than 70 years and has been at its Brattleboro location since 1971, according to Kanaan. It has 40 to 45 employees, he said.
Jaime Cone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.
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