Heptane and Static Electricity May be Cause of Auburn Hills Fire

Heptane and Static Electricity May be Cause of Auburn Hills Fire

(Auburn Hills Fire Dept, Dec. 8, 2016)

Auburn Hills, MI – At 12:50 AM on today’s date, Auburn Hills fire personnel were dispatched to a commercial structure fire at LXR Biotech, 1139 Centre. LXR Biotech produces a consumable product at this location. Two employees were working at the location when the fire started. Both employees escaped without injury.

Fire personnel arrived on scene and observed flames through the roof at the rear of the building. The employees reported that heptane, a highly flammable chemical, was stored inside the building and it was on fire. The incident was quickly elevated to a third alarm. Fire personnel from Rochester Hills, Rochester, Orion Twp., Oakland Twp., Troy, Waterford Regional, and Bloomfield Twp. assisted on the scene. Personnel from Independence Twp. and STAR EMS provided coverage in the city during the incident. The Red Cross also responded to the scene to provide hot beverages to firefighters. Auburn Hills police assisted with traffic control.

The Oakland County Hazardous Materials team from MABAS 3201 also responded to the scene. Hazmat personnel tested the air quality in the area and determined that beyond the smoke there was no elevated threat due to the burning chemical. Samples were also taken from the water running off from the fire. It was determined that the chemicals will not have a long term impact on the environment as the high volume of water used to extinguish the fire had diluted the product. Auburn Hills investigators are being assisted by fire investigators from the Oakland County Sheriff’s office.

During the investigation an employee reported that he was moving a large open container of heptane when he believes static electricity ignited the chemical. Attempts to extinguish the fire with an extinguisher were not successful and the fire quickly spread throughout the building. As the fire spread it came in contact with other containers of heptane which significantly increased the intensity of the fire.

The building is a total loss. The roof of the building collapsed within 20 minutes of fire personnel arriving on scene. Personnel from the Auburn Hills DPW used an excavator to knock down the outside walls to prevent a future collapse. The fire was reported to be under control at 2:03 AM and fire personnel remained on scene until 7:22 AM. No fire personnel were injured while fighting the fire. The adjacent buildings on either side of the site were not damaged.

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