Company Says Indiana Magnesium Fire Was Not Toxic

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) -- A magnesium fire that prompted 8,000 people to evacuate their homes last week was not toxic and did not pose a threat to residents, the recycling plant owner said.

The fire was contained in one warehouse where toxic substances were not stored, Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. officials said in a letter sent to residents Wednesday. ``Although concentrated amounts of magnesium oxide that was contained in the fire's smoke may have been an irritant _ it was not toxic,'' they wrote.

About 8,000 people within a 1-mile-by-2-mile area around the plant were evacuated when the fire broke out Jan. 14. Firefighters let the fire burn itself out because magnesium becomes explosive when it comes in contact with water. The residents were allowed back to their homes the next day, and no one was hurt.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. City officials said the company had correctly disabled its sprinkler system in order to not fuel a fire in the magnesium.

However, water may have reached the fire through working sprinklers in other areas or from broken pipes, said Connie Smith, a mayoral spokeswoman in the city about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of a resident who had to leave his home seeks compensation for hotel and cleanup costs and losses in property value. Attorney Tom Hamer, who is seeking class-action status, said the company should have taken special precautions to prevent fire.

Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. supplies alloys to the die-casting and the aluminum industries and says the Anderson plant is the largest magnesium recycling facility in the world.