A bolt of lightning caused a chemical fire at the Dow Chemical plant in Bristol, Pa., early Wednesday morning. Even though hazardous-materials officials say the area is now safe, many living in the shadow of the blaze remain skeptical.
School was cancelled Wednesday for Bristol High School sophomore Nicholas Cramp, but first he had to deal with a morning of chaos.
“In the middle of the night, I woke up because all of a sudden the house shook,” said Cramp. “And my dad screamed at me to turn the fan off because all we could smell was gas or whatever it was.”
According to Dow, it was ethyl acrylate and butyl acrylate — ingredients used to make paints. They say the fumes from the fire may be irritants, but they aren’t toxic.
So, should neighbors worry?
“Yeah I think so ’cause they don’t tell you everything that’s going on in that plant — the fish glow at night when you catch them,” said Rich Eichelberger who could smell the burning chemicals from his house five blocks away.
Latoia Daughtery echoed that worry. Four months pregnant, she was in town from Hamilton, N.J., to visit her grandmother. Hours after the fire was extinguished, the chemical stench permeated her grandmother’s neighborhood.
“I’m sick to my stomach cause of this smell,” she said. “It’s polluting. My baby shouldn’t be inhaling that. I need to get out of here.
One emergency responder lost his life after the fire, though it’s unclear whether his death was related to the fumes. Volunteer firefighter Dave Wintz suffered cardiac arrest after leaving the site early this morning.
Jeffery Fisher, who has lived in Bristol for almost 60 years, says living near the plant means living with the threat of danger.
“I always knew there was a possibility if they have a fire there that a good square mile, two square miles could disappear from the planet,” said Fisher, whose father used to be a chemist at the plant.
Community members with questions related to the fire can call Dow at 215-781-4600.