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Chemical analysis may provide clues to cause of huge Red Deer industrial fire

Fire on April 17 caused $9 million in damage to oil and gas industrial building
Firefighters spent about 90 minutes bringing a fire in an industrial building on Golden West Avenue in north Red Deer under control on Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

Fire investigators are awaiting the results of chemical tests in hopes of pinpointing the cause of a $9 million north Red Deer industrial fire last week.

Red Deer Emergency Services fire investigator Tim Kivell said on Tuesday the fire started in a spray painting area in the 12-bay building owned by Red Deer Ironworks Inc., a company specializing in manufacturing equipment for the oil and gas industry.

The huge blaze began about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday and the 20,000-square-foot building at 6430 Golden West Avenue was gutted by the time the fire was brought under control shortly after noon. Massive plumes of thick black smoke were blown towards nearby Oriole Park and about 80 homes were evacuated because of air quality concerns.

Residents were given the all-clear to return home around 3 p.m.


Fire rips through industrial building

Investigators comb through building

Kivell said he was on scene the day of the fire and returned with another fire investigator on Thursday and spent about nine hours sifting through the wreckage with the help of a backhoe. An insurance company fire investigator also worked with them.

The search for a cause was complicated by the amount of damage done to the building. Besides being completely burned out, the roof had caved in on the building.

“The more damage, the harder it is to determine a cause,” he said. “There’s a chance we may not ever come up with a cause but we’re trying to come up with one.”

The building was full of flammable paints and other chemicals that may have played a role in the fire starting.

“We’re going through an analysis of all the products that were there,” he said. “Each product is being analyzed for the specific characteristics and their storage and handling.

“Some of the product is being sent away for analysis. So, it’s still under investigation.”

Kivell said some products are sensitive to static electricity. “That could be a cause here.

“We also look at all the products that are being used in a particular area that come in contact with each other.

“There could be some type of chemical reaction. Those are the types of things we’re looking at and we’re analyzing these products closely.”

It will likely take about a month to get the results of the tests on the chemicals.

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