Southern California

Explosive Titanium Fire in Santa Fe Springs Recalls ‘Mess in Maywood'

What to Know

  • Firefighters battled an industrial building fire in Santa Fe Springs that was sending thick smoke into the sky Wednesday.
  • The blaze began burning around 5 p.m. in the 9600 block of John Street.
  • The roof had partially collapsed.

As investigators searched for clues Thursday into the cause of a fire at a metal processing plant in Santa Fe Springs, officials said they had to assume a defensive stance due to titanium burning inside.

The fire was reported about 4:35 p.m. Wednesday at United Alloys and Metals, in the 9600 block of John Street. The company processes scrap titanium and the fire began in a room where titanium is kept, said Tom Hall, the director of environmental & fire prevention at Santa Fe Spring Fire-Rescue.

A special system and room inside was built to help suppress the fire, Hall said. The fire recalled a similar blaze at a metal recycling plant in Maywood in 2016 when the NBC4 I-Team found challenges in dealing with fires like these. The fire in Maywood caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and led to major changes in state requirements.

Businesses are required to do enhanced annual reporting and disclose metals that are reactive under fire conditions.

"It is so hot it can break apart the water and generate hydrogen and cause that to burn," Hall said. "So the more water you put on it the more it can react."

He said firefighters knew of the titanium inside because of prior inspections. That was not the case when firefighters came upon a fire at a metal recycling plant in Maywood in 2016. An NBC4 investigation found that certain metals were not on the list of hazardous materials that business had to report to the state.

That changed last year when Gov. Jerry Brown approved additions to the state health and safety code. Now combustible metals, including magnesium and titanium, must be disclosed to various agencies, changes that came, in part, because of the NBC4 investigation.

Hall said such businesses have to recertify annually with their business plans. Santa Fe Springs is having owners include such metals as part of their business plans and the department is working closer with fire departments across the region as part of a statewide effort to better monitor scrap metal businesses, Hill said.

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