News Local

'Green smoke vapour' stymies firefighters

By Pete Fisher, Northumberland Today

COBOURG - A fire involving possible hazardous materials kept firefighters at the scene for hours Thursday, Feb. 2 trying to determine what was burning.

Cobourg firefighters responded to a fire in a waste bin in the Industrial Park directly across from the Cobourg Community Centre on D'Arcy Street.

The bin was located on the east side of the Cascade factory, against the wall, at the south corner.

Cobourg Fire Department Captain Chris Brown said when crews arrived there was "green smoke vapour" pouring from the bin.

"Because it was a different type of colour we had to change our tactics and we couldn't apply water until we found out what the substance was," he said.

Firefighter made a detailed list of materials in the bin from information provided by the personnel working on the roof of the building.

Firefighters then contacted CANUTEC for guidance on how to approach the fire.

CANUTEC is a government agency that provides information in dealing with hazardous materials and how they react in combination with other chemicals.

"The green-yellow smoke is unusual; there could be a different type of reaction (if water was applied)," Brown said. "Some applications of water with some substances could result in an explosion; other substances it could result in a corrosive atmosphere which could lead to other problems."

Smoke from the bin became heavier and eventually flames could be seen coming from the receptacle.

"Because conditions changed, we applied a hose-stream to the side of the building for protection," Brown said.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus opened the doors and painstakingly emptied the contents of the bin by hand and using pike poles.

After emptying the container's contents, firefighters were still stymied at what caused the discolouration of the smoke.

All the materials appeared to have been materials workers had put into the bin while repairing the roof of the building.

"Perhaps because of some sort of combination of material and some heat developed, it may have caused this fire," Brown said.

An ambulance was on standby on D'Arcy Street and Cobourg Police stopped pedestrian traffic in the area downwind from the fire.

Brown said firefighters must take extra precautions when responding to unusual calls.

"We always try to err on the side of caution - not only for the citizens and businesses that may be around, but also because of the firefighters," he said.

It was nearly seven hours by the time firefighters returned to the firehall and decontaminated their firegear and equipment.