Suspicious Acid Linked to Wash. Plant Fire

Aug. 22--Discovery of a suspicious acid collected by a city garbage truck that prompted a Wednesday morning shutdown of city streets in north Spokane has been linked to a small fire at the Waste-to-Energy Plant later in the day, according to investigators.

Firefighters were called to the city's trash incinerator at 2900 S. Geiger Blvd. just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. The fire started in garbage that had been collected from residential areas earlier in the day and was extinguished by a sprinkler system in the building, said Ken Gimpel, assistant utilities division director with the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System.

"There were never any flames," Gimpel said.

Spokane firefighters ran hoses into the building and mopped up what was still smoldering, Schaeffer said.

There were no injuries reported and no damage to the plant, Gimpel said. A crane deposited what was left of the contaminated refuse into the furnace, he said.

Operations at the facility were not affected by the fire, Gimpel added.

Schaeffer said the cause of the fire may remain unknown, but there is a "relatively high likelihood" it was related to a call of a suspicious liquid in a garbage truck at the intersection of Wellesley Street and Crestline Avenue around 9 a.m. Firefighters there discovered a muriatic acid -- a solution of hydrogen chloride and water -- that was neutralized, Schaeffer said.

Muriatic acid is used as a cleaner on some hard surfaces such as concrete, but it also can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Schaeffer said the fire could have been caused by the agent used to neutralize the acid, but it's more likely some of the acid found its way to the facility and sparked the fire.

No injuries were reported in the acid call Wednesday morning, though roads were closed for several hours.

Copyright 2014 - The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.