New Law Passes After NBC4 Investigates Toxic Maywood Fire - NBC Southern California


New Law Passes After NBC4 Investigates Toxic Maywood Fire

Residents were forced from their homes amid the toxic fire that couldn't be put out with water.



    Law Passed After NBC4 Investigates Toxic Fire

    An explosive fire forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and left firefighters battling a danger that they did not know about in Maywood. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Published Friday, Sept. 8, 2017)

    A California state bill was recently signed into law that expands health and safety requirements of metal recycling plants.

    Under the law, businesses must now do enhanced annual reporting and business plan requirements regarding metals that are reactive under fire conditions.

    The law was passed more than a year after an explosive fire at a recycling plant in Maywood forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and left firefighters battling a danger that, at the time, they did not know about.

    NBC4 uncovered the challenges related to the now closed metal recycling plant.

    How Water Can Make a Burning Building Explode

    [LA] How Water Can Make a Burning Building Explode

    When firefighters arrived to take on a burning warehouse in Maywood, they did the obvious thing: Spray it with water. They didn’t know that materials in the building would cause a chemical reaction that would spark a massive explosion. 

    (Published Friday, Sept. 8, 2017)

    Magnesium was discovered inside the Maywood plant connected to the fire and today dozens of residents are still in the middle of a legal battle.

    When magnesium in a superheated solid form mixes with water it explodes.

    The flammable chemical was unknown to firefighters battling a fire at the metal recycling plant on June 14, 2016.

    Bill Jones, the chief of the Los Angeles County Fire health and hazardous materials division, said at the time that magnesium was not a reported chemical in the form that it was in — a chunk of metal.

    An NBC4 investigation discovered the magnesium housed inside the plant was not on the list of hazardous materials that businesses had to report to the state.

    That changed in late July when the Brown approved additions to a section of the California health and safety code.

    Cleanup Begins at Maywood Fire Site

    [LA] Cleanup Begins at Maywood Fire Site
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun an eight-week cleanup of a toxic fire site in Maywood. However, some residents in the area are still fearful. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016.
    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016)

    Now combustible metals, including magnesium, must be disclosed to various agencies throughout the state.

    The changes came, in part, because of the story.

    "We want to make sure the community isn't forgotten about," said Jim Pettis, an attorney for families.

    Meanwhile, nearly 140 residents have filed a lawsuit against the former owner of the now shuttered metal recycling plant and a man who rented space inside the business, calling them negligent and reckless.

    According to a status report filed in the lawsuit, the defendant, including the plant owner, may try to take their own legal action, based on unconfirmed reports that the origin of the fire may have been a sparking transformer.

    The fire department says a connection between the transformer and the fire has not been found. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

    The United States Environmental Protection agency spent weeks cleaning up the site.

    Some 534 tons of solid wastes — the same weight as about 6.5 empty space shuttles — have been collected. Crews disposed of nearly 714 tons of hazardous waste.

    Multiple calls and emails to the attorneys for the plant owner were not returned.

    What will happen to the property is still unclear.

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