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Haz-mat crews burn trailer full of salvaged chemicals after A/C breaks

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UPDATE: The air conditioning on a refrigerated trailer crews planned to use to transport some of the chemicals that didn't spill back to the manufacturer gave out, and crews were forced to burn the entire trailer. The trailer was ignited sometime around 8 p.m Sunday.  After the A/C broke, the chemical inside became too warm to be stabilized, so crews decided to destroy the chemicals in a controlled environment.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Haz-mat crews and firefighters from multiple agencies have been working since Sunday to remove and safely dispose of potentially explosive chemicals from a Salt Lake City warehouse.

A chemical leak occurred inside Quality Distribution Inc., a storage facility that holds both hazardous materials and chemicals, located at 421 North John Glenn Road. The chemical leak forced officials to evacuate everyone within 2,000 feet of the building.

Officials said a fire at the facility Sunday morning destroyed five containers containing the chemical Trigonox, an organic peroxide.

The chemical becomes unstable at 68 degrees, and at 77 degrees it can no longer be stabilized. Because the facility’s air conditioning system was broken, the temperature inside the warehouse had already exceeded a safe level.

“We want to make sure we handle everything without causing any kind of explosion or any damage,” said Jason Asay from the Salt Lake City Fire Department “We’ve been told that just any kind of a shock can create some type of explosion with this chemical.”

Crews worked overnight to dig a trench to hold containers of the chemical that had been compromised. In all, about 40 5-gallon containers were removed Monday morning.

Those compromised containers were moved to the trench, about 25 feet from the building, where they were detonated around 8 a.m. - creating thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles.

Another 144 containers of Trigonox were found and moved into a refrigerated trailer to await destruction.Crews plan to detonate the much-larger amount of the chemical Monday night once the sun goes down. In the meantime, the public is being kept 2,000 feet away from the site.

Officials said Monday night's controlled burn would be about four times larger than the one they carried out Monday morning. Crews are digging an additional two trenches, which will be about 4 feet deep and 120 feet long. The containers will be moved from the trailer to the trenches after sunset, as the chemical heats up quickly when it is in the sun.

Officials said the controlled burn should eliminate the possibility of an explosion, and they hope to lift the evacuation order by Tuesday morning.

'This one just with the amount of containers and the type of chemicals and the heat, there are so many factors that have been thrown into this incident that has made it go on almost two days by the time we do our control burn tonight," Asay said.

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department had officials on scene to test the air before and after the burn Monday morning. They found that the smoke from the chemicals was not toxic or harmful to the environment.