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California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

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Bay Area Accident Raises Air Quality Concerns

Emergency services rush to the scene of the plastic factory fire.

An accident at Macro Plastics headquarters in Fairfield caused a six-alarm fire on July 26.

The accident was caused by a worker doing routine yard maintenance. The bins burned out-of-doors, leaving all buildings in the area unscathed.

“The call came into our dispatch a little after 1pm yesterday, and it quickly escalated to a 6-alarm fire,” said Gale Spears, communications manager for the City of Fairfield. “It mobilized about 35 pieces of equipment and we had mutual aid from all of the surrounding fire departments.”

The fire, which occurred at around 1:15pm, was contained at about 4:15pm, according to a press release sent out by Macro Plastics.

In response to the accident, the county issued a shelter-in-place advisory to those within a one-mile radius of the facility, advising individuals to stay indoors, close windows and turn off air conditioners to decrease exposure to the smoke.

There were no evacuations due to the accident, though police provided an escorting service to the nearby companies as they alerted them of the incident. No deaths were reported and only small injuries were sustained by the firefighters.

Macro Plastics manufactures plastic containers for agricultural, food processing, retail and industrial use. Based in Fairfield, the company provides for several Northern California agricultural markets, and prides itself on its reusable and recyclable products.

According to the fire marshal, the company had met all qualifications and operated fully within the code they’re required to meet.

The fire caused little environmental damage, at most emitting a great amount of hydrocarbons, a known pollutant, into the atmosphere.

“The long-term effects of the smoke that was in the air was equivalent to the byproducts of a wildfire,” said Spears, according to her discussion with the Solano County EPA. “[It was] no more detrimental than when we have a grass fire or burning brush in the area.”

Hydrocarbons contribute to the formation of smog and can lead to health issues such as coughing in the short term and bronchitis in the long term, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Tests are still under way to determine exact air quality hazards, according to the Department of Public Health.

“We tend to have very high winds here,” continued Spears. “All the stars were in alignment yesterday because we didn’t have high winds and that gave the smoke a chance to get very high before it started to get blown in any direction.”

The flames were finally contained at midnight on Tuesday and the facility and the building was turned back over to the plant manager, according to Spears.

Macro Plastics will now work with the fire marshal, environmental groups, and public works to map a cleanup plan.

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Bay Area Accident Raises Air Quality Concerns