Indiana Magnesium Fire Forces Evacuation

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) -- A magnesium fire at a recycling plant burned out of control Friday night, spewing wind-driven toxic fumes and forcing authorities to evacuated several thousand people from their homes.

Several hundred firefighters rushed to the scene after the fire at the Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. plant, or AMACOR, erupted about 5:30 p.m., but explosions inside forced them to pull out less than three hours later, said Anderson police spokesman Detective Terry Sollars.

``The whole building is engulfed now,'' Sollars said from a command post a few blocks from the fire. ``It's a bright glow, it's burning pretty hard.''

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Magnesium is a silvery-white, highly flammable metal that, when ignited, releases irritating or toxic fumes. Magnesium fires are typically extinguished using dry sand; throwing water on such a fire can cause it to flare up or explode.

Authorities evacuated an area of the city's south side about 1 mile wide and 2 miles long that was in the path of the smoke and fumes being propelled by winds of 5 to 10 miles per hour, Sollars said.

The Salvation Army and Red Cross set up shelters to house evacuees.

``They're afraid the plant is gonna blow,'' said Doug Parks, who with a roommate lives across the street and upwind from the plant. ``We heard a couple of explosions that shook the house. ... I see flames shooting out of the plant.''

Sollars said the fire began with an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of magnesium in one section of the plant.

``We're not sure yet on what the start of it was,'' Sollars said.

Twelve to 18 of the plant's approximately 70 workers were inside at the time, he said.

The factory, which Amacor purchased in 2003, is located in the sprawling former Delco Remy plant site north of Interstate 69.