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Chemical spill starts fire at composite center

Published: Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 9:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 9:14 PM

A chemical spill that occurred during research at the National Composite Center on Tuesday night led to an alcohol-based fire in one of the laboratories on the center’s campus.

Fire crews were dispatched at about 6:30 p.m. to the center in the Kettering Business Park, 2000 Composite Drive, on a report of a fire.

Three employees were running an experiment when the spill occurred, said Tom Butts, shift commander, Kettering Fire Department.

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“They were doing research unknown to us,” Butts said, and an estimated 20 gallons of isopropanol (“high based 100 percent rubbing alcohol”) that spilled sought out an electric ignition source and caught fire.

The alcohol was “consumed in the fire,” Butts said. The building's suppression system put out the fire.

No one was hurt and there was minimal damage to the structure, he said.

The research was being performed by a private company for the composite center, Butts said.

According to compositecenter.org, the center provides member companies with a materials testing laboratory equipped to meet mechanical, optical and thermal composite testing needs.

Isopropanol is a clear and flammable liquid at room temperature with odor resembling that of a mixture of ethanol and acetone. According to Dow Chemical, the largest use for isopropanol is as a solvent. The second largest use is as a chemical intermediate. Isopropanol is also found in many everyday products such as paints, inks, general-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, room sprays and windshield deicing agents.