Biddeford, ME – Eight firefighters who were in a building on Landry street were taken to Southern Maine Health Center for decontamination because of exposure to chemicals.
The Biddeford Fire Department and neighboring departments responded Thursday afternoon to a fire at Soleras Advanced Coatings.
Biddeford Fire Chief Scott Gagne said the fire started in a container holding 60 pounds of lithium in the center of the building. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
An employee who was transporting the chemical was injured in the fire and taken to Southern Maine Health Care, Gagne said. There was only minor damage to the building.
The firefighting effort was complicated because the department did not have enough soda ash and other materials to extinguish the chemical fire and had to call in support from neighboring towns, York County Emergency Management Agency and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
The building houses products that contain lithium, which requires dry fire extinguishing substances because of the risk of explosion.
When lithium is mixed with water, the resulting chemical reaction expels heat and hydrogen, a flammable gas. Even small amounts of lithium, when aflame and mixed with water, can produce a large conflagration.
Lithium is a common substrate used in batteries, including those for storing electricity generated by solar arrays.