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Zinc Processing Plant Fire in NC Forces Evacuations

April 29, 2019
A large fire and several explosions were reported at a North Carolina zinc processing plant on Sunday. Representative image
A large fire and several explosions were reported at a North Carolina zinc processing plant on Sunday. Representative image

Emergency personnel responded to several explosions and a large fire at the American Zinc Products zinc processing plant in Mooresboro, NC on Sunday evening and remained on scene overnight to put out the flames, local news organizations reported. Those living and working within a half-mile of the facility were temporarily ordered to evacuate due to the release of sulfuric acid into the area. 

After firefighters were called to the scene at about 8 p.m. Sunday, crews arrived and observed flames coming from the facility that reached more than 60 feet into the air, Ellenboro Fire Department Capt. Bill Greene told Fox Carolina. The official said some 100 fire personnel responded to the Mooresboro site. 

About 10 to 12 explosions occurred inside of the facility during the incident, according to coverage by NBC News affiliate WCNC. 

Officials ordered an evacuation in the early hours of Monday morning due to air quality concerns. Local law enforcement officers went door to door to notify those in the impacted area about the order. 

“The concerns are not necessarily the zinc. The concern is that sulfuric acid has been released. We’re in the beginning stages of investigating the scene,” Rutherford Fire Department Assistant Fire Marshal John Greenway said in the Fox Carolina article. “We’re had the decontamination firemen out here and their gear tested positive as hazardous, so we have contained the fire to the building.”

The majority of the flames were put out by Monday morning. No injuries were recorded during the incident. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel also were dispatched to the site to conduct further air quality testing. 

American Zinc Products is a producer of zinc metal, lead-silver concentrate, and additional co-products, the firm’s website said. The production facility in Mooresboro manufactures special high-grade zinc, continuous-galvanizing grade, and Prime Western grade. 

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