1998 IFAS Fires in Agricultural Chemicals

With increased agricultural production, farmers are using more fertilizers and chemicals. This has caused new problems for firefighters due to the numerous types of chemicals used and the increase in chemical storage by farmers and suppliers.Chemicals used by farmers and commercial applicators include fertilizers and soil conditioners, soil fumigants, herbicides,pesticides, rodenticides, insecticides, fungicides, explosives, etc.Many of these chemicals release toxic fumes with little or no warning when exposed to fire. Most serious are the organic phosphates, such as parathion and malathion, and chlorinated hydrocarbons.When fighting chemical fires, wear protective clothing, use a self-contained breathing apparatus (air paks) and have sufficient air available to complete the job. For additional protection, work on the upwind side of the fire.Fire fighters should spend more time with farmers and suppliers to plan in case of a fire. Formulations and trade names number in the thousands. Many of these are chemicals that are poisonous both for their intended uses and to humans. Proper storage, hazard identification, established emergency procedures and firefighter training are extremely important.

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