Magnesium continues to fuel industrial fire in Dade City

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Pasco County Fire Rescue crews are being praised for their pre-planning in the battle against a still-smoldering two-alarm fire at an industrial complex in Dade City, Florida.

The burning buildings contain highly flammable chemicals like argon, oxygen, nitrous oxide, and magnesium, which is especially flammable, especially when water is present.

However, according to Pasco County Emergency Management Director Andrew Fossa, “Pasco Fire Rescue firefighters are some of the highest trained in the state,” and they had a plan before they even got to the scene.

Fossa said firefighters keep records of where large amounts of flammable chemicals are used at various locations around the county, including this 355-acre Dade City Business Center along Citrus Country Drive, just east of U.S. 301.

Having this information allowed them to effectively fight the fire and limit its spread.

Pasco Fire Rescue said when crews first arrived, soon after the call came in at 12:30 Friday afternoon, they tried to fight the fire from inside the building, but quickly realized the roof was weakening. Soon after crews pulled out, the roof collapsed.

The view from SkyFOX showed the large billows of black smoke and pockets of exploding chemicals, which sprayed white-hot slag into the air. Firefighters hung above the building on aerial ladders.

The fire spread to nearby buildings, but firefighters said they had contained it as much as possible.

The fire was under control late Friday, but a large flare-up sent crews back into heavy defensive mode just before 9 p.m.

According to PCFR, units from Pasco Fire Rescue, Zephyrhills Fire Rescue, Plant City Fire rescue, and Hernando County Fire helped out. 

Everyone working in the complex was able to evacuate and no injuries to workers or firefighters had been reported.

Fossa said one or more of the buildings on site is currently being used to weld “exotic metals” but used to be home to an orange juice producer. There was still anhydrous ammonia, used in orange juice production but also flammable, stored on site as well.

Fossa said the runoff was being contained in a retention pond and, so far, showed low levels of contamination. Air monitors were also in use and no threat to public health had been identified.

Hours into the operation, firefighters’ main concern was limiting the spread of the fire and contamination by chemicals still in the buildings.

Crews said Pasco County residents would likely continue to see the column of smoke coming from Dade City through the night.

There were no reported road closures, but officials asked residents to steer clear of the area.