Multiple fire departments respond to industrial building fire near Port of Catoosa

CLAREMORE, Okla. — Multiple fire departments were at a fire at a metal galvanizing plant, east of the Port of Catoosa, where a fire broke out Sunday night.

Fire crews from Catoosa, Verdigris, Tulsa and Claremore were all at the scene at Valmont-Oklahoma Galvanizing, near State Highway 266 and South 4100 Road in Claremore. They said they were called out around 6 p.m.

Large plumes of thick black smoke were seen rising into the air. Verdigris Fire Chief Mike Shaffer told FOX23 the smoke went up around 300 feet into the air. He said anytime they have a fire, the smoke will always be toxic.

Shaffer said they tracked the smoke and plumes coming off the fire to make sure no homes were impacted.

He said the fire was at metal galvanizing plant and that it was more of a HAZMAT incident than a structure fire.

He said the business dips large metal poles into vats of chemicals, and it’s those chemicals in a vat that they’re dealing with. He described it as a “sort of giant witch’s kettle.”

There are lots of chemicals in the building, according to Shaffer. Because of that, two HAZMAT teams were at the scene that worked to smother the fire with different chemicals.

“With them being a galvanizing plant, there’s large vats of chemicals that are zinc chemicals, and those types of chemicals live their life at 800 degrees,” said Shaffer. “A lot of times, it takes a lot to get them going, but they will burn. So again, if you’ve got a vat full of chemicals, you don’t want to put water on it, then in turn make a large fire that’s spreading.”

Shaffer said they didn’t want to put a lot of water on the fire because of it being a chemical fire, but also, because there is a slough behind the building which leads to the Verdigris River. He said they wanted to make sure that no runoff water got into the river and made it into the drinking water system.

They have taken a lot of precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen, according to Shaffer, and they’re working with Verdigris and the City of Broken Arrow to make sure the drinking water is safe.

Shaffer said there was no need to evacuate homes in area, but there is a shelter in place advisory, meaning closing doors and windows.

“As of right now we have no evacuations. We have a north wind and that wind is until Wednesday, thankfully, so no change in the wind,” said Shaffer. “There are no evacuations downwind of this. There’s no exposure as of right now to any drinking water or anything, but there are precautions that are being taken to make sure the citizens both here in Verdigris, and downwind and downstream are safe.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No one was in the building at the time.

“We have them first priority in this … They can go to sleep tonight and rest assured that we have means, through reverse 911 and different messaging systems, all the way down to our faithful law enforcement partners, of going out and giving PA messages if necessary if things change,” said Shaffer.