Chemical spill prompts warning to Fairgrounds area

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Geoff Rutland watched as dozens of Hillsborough County firefighters and members of the Hazardous Incident Team responded to a chemical spill minutes from the Florida State Fairgrounds.

"That's my biggest fear is a chemical spill like this," he said. 

Officials say just after 10 a.m., a forklift punctured a 55-gallon drum of hydroflouric acid in the parking lot of the Florida Chemical Supply company on East Chelsea Street.

"It went over on its side, and spilled about 25 gallons of this hydroflouric liquid," said Eric Seidel, spokesperson for Hillsborough Fire Rescue. 

The road was blocked off by several emergency vehicles. Meanwhile, reverse 911 calls and text alerts were sent to residents within a quarter-mile radius of the spill. 

"Basically warning people that they need to shelter in place," said Seidel. "It's not an evacuation, but a situation where they just want to stay in their homes as a precaution to make sure they're not out wandering neighborhood just in case there were some vapors of this chemical that could have caused them any harm." 

Firefighters and the HazMat team were able to contain the situation before any serious injuries could occur. 

"It's very acidic," continued Seidel. "If it were to get on you, it could cause acid burns. It will burn flesh. If it's vaporized, then it causes a hazard all over the body and inside the lungs." 

"Just the way that the world's going and everything," added Rutland. "It's just concerning that something so small and minute can cause such a big problem." 

Seidel says two of the company employees were taken to the hospital for evaluation. A firefighter was also hospitalized for further evaluation after experiencing heat exhaustion. 

The shelter-in-place ordered was lifted at 1 p.m.