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Kitchen explosion results in HAZMAT call-in

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August 04, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- A concoction Barbara Jones made in her kitchen Monday night required a response by not only the township firefighters, but the North Oakland Hazardous Materitals Team (HAZMAT).

Lucky for her, she's a self-described neatnik, or she may not have lived to tell the tale.

Jones owns an above-ground pool at her home in the 3000 block of Briar Patch Court, and around 7 p.m., Aug. 2, she placed a bucket in her kitchen sink in which to mix pool chemicals. Jones began by dumping in one pouch of the pool shock brand she normally uses. She added water and dumped in a second 1-pound bag of a different brand. She then walked to the trash can to throw the empty bags away and the mixture exploded.

"It was like a bomb went off," she recalls. "It was so loud, I literally thought it blew a hole in my sink. It sounded like an M-80."

Her son raced up the stairs from the basement, grabbed the empty pouches, and the pair fled the house.

"It almost looked like a volcano exploding in the sink— a smoky yellow was billowing out of the bucket... The odor, you just knew you needed to leave. It was like it was taking oxygen out of the room."

Brandon firefighters arrived with an engine and ambulance to the strong stench of chlorine. Shift Captain Jerry Wivo contacted the North Oaklnd County HAZMAT leader and a Level 1 response— the highest HAZMAT response—was coordinated, with additional pieces of equipment and 12 team members sent to the residence. While waiting for their arrival, the firefighters entered the home wearing self-contained breathing apparatus to begin the initial cleanup. When the HAZMAT team arrived, they did the final clean-up, then tested with a gas meter to make sure the home was safe to enter without special apparatus.

Fire Chief David Kwapis said Jones made two mistakes— mixing the chemicals in an enclosed space and mixing two different brands.

"If you mix different pool shocks together, they can react violently," he said. "These two different brands had different chemicals. Also, when you are mixing pool chemicals, you should mix them outside, in an open air environment."

Kwapis noted Jones was very, very fortunate to have walked away to throw the bags out.

"The important part is, if she had waited and been standing over the bucket, she would have potentially had chemical burns to her face and body and inhaled the chlorine gas, which could have been fatal."

Clean-up of the home was completed by 9:33 p.m. Kwapis said the callout has payroll costs of $235 to the Brandon Fire Department, but no other costs will be incurred by the department. HAZMAT equipment and apparatus was purchased through federal Homeland Security grant funds. The North Oakland HAZMAT is a consortium effort, made up of several fire departments in the north, west and east portions of Oakland County. Additionally, all Brandon firefighters have received HAZMAT awareness and operations level training. Previously, Brandon has had one HAZMAT incident a few years ago when a tanker filling gas tanks at Sunoco spilled.

"The big thing is with HAZMAT is that we have those resources available so when we do have an incident, highly trained personnel helps us take care of the scene and make sure residents are safe," Kwapis said.

Jones praised both HAZMAT and the Brandon firefighters, saying their response was excellent.

"They were fantastic," she said. "I try not to think about it, what could have happened. It could have been a lot worse outcome."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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