Airgas fire response; Hazmat procedures and protocol

WICHITA, Kansas – Contractors were on site Tuesday at Airgas Distribution Center, located at 2018 S. West Street, as crews worked to board up and secure the building following Monday’s fire.

Fire at Airgas on South West Street in Wichita, January 12, 2015. (KSN Photo / Brian Miller)
Fire at Airgas on South West Street in Wichita, January 12, 2015. (KSN Photo / Brian Miller)

The fire broke out around 2 p.m. Monday near Harry and South West Street.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. However, investigators said Tuesday that damage at the site is estimated at nearly $1.7 million.

According to the sign pictured below, it appears as though, for at least the foreseeable future, most day-to-day operations at Airgas will now take place at the company’s West location on 33rd Street.

Airgas 33rd Street Sign

KSN wanted to learn more information about safety protocol involved in responding to a potential hazmat situation. We were told the Wichita Fire Department’s hazmat division responded to the Airgas fire.

Despite industrial gas storage at the facility, no one was hurt.

“While they were inside the structure performing interior fire attack operations, there were several explosions inside the building. They immediately evacuated [the] building,” said Captain Kelly Zane, with Wichita Fire.

KSN learned after firefighters put out the flames, the city-county health department largely takes over the safety of any potential hazmat situation, especially when its effects could impact the general public.

“They’ll work with the company to make sure that it gets properly cleaned up. They actually do air mediation, monitoring downwind when the fire is burning. So, they go as far as to check the water runoff to make sure nothing is in the water,” said Battalion Chief Rich Harris, with the Wichita Fire Department.

The largest concern involving a potential hazmat situation on Monday actually came for firefighters on the scene.

“Propane bottles, Acetylene bottles, Oxygen, so, all those things are considered dangerous to us,” said Chief Harris.

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