Firefighters respond to dumpster fire

August 14, 1994 (~estimated)

Firefighters respond to dumpster fire

By Laurie Lynn Strasser

Staff Writer

The Mercer County Hazardous Materials Team, four fire engines and 20 firefighters were dispatched to the Medical Center at Princeton Monday night after two chemical drums were found in a huge dumpster of smoldering garbage.

The red 45-gallon drum contained industrial-strength drain cleaner, said Bob Bethke, a hazardous materials technician from Hamilton.

“It’s just trash,” he said, noting that extra care was taken ‘because it’s a hospital” and there is always the possibility that medical waste could be mixed in with garbage at such a facility.

“Because we didn’t know what was there, we had to be overly cautious to protect the neighborhood:’ Princeton Fire Chief Roszel Warren said as firefighters prepared to leave the scene at 9:20 p.m.

Firefighters were notified at 5:01 p.m. of a fire at the point where a ramming device was stuffing the industrial dumpster with garbage from the hospital.

“Everything was smoldering.’ Chief Warren said. “We had men in with air packs to extinguish it.”

The smoldering was started by a chemical reaction between rainwater and the drain cleaner. Mr. Bethke said.

It took 20 minutes for an employee of Waste Management Company in Trenton to arrive and detach the brown container so firefighters could drag it away from the building, Chief Warren said.

The trash was scattered on the ground and dikes were built out of sand to prevent the chemical from running into drains on the ground, Mr. Bethke said.

After checking the mangled label on one of the half-melted chemical drums, delving into hospital records and calling Chem-Trec, a national hotline, he learned that all the chemical would have done if it ran down the drains is clean them.

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