increased agricultural production, farmers are using more
fertilizers and chemicals. This has caused new problems for
firefighters due to the numerous types of chemicals used and
the increase in chemical storage by farmers and suppliers.
used by farmers and commercial applicators include: fertilizers
and soil conditioners, soil fumigants, herbicides, pesticides,
rodenticides, insecticides, fungicides, explosives, etc. Many
of these chemicals release toxic fumes with little or no warning
when exposed to fire. Most serious are the organic phosphates,
such as parathion and malathion, and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
fighting chemical fires, wear protective clothing, use a self-
contained breathing apparatus (air paks) and have sufficient
air available to complete the job. For additional protection,
work on the upwind side of the fire.
should spend more time with farmers and suppliers to plan
in case of a fire. Trade names and formulations number in
the thousands. Many of these are chemicals that are poisonous
both for their intended to humans. Proper storage, hazard
identification, established emergency procedures and firefighter
training are extremely important.
responding to fires involving agricultural chemicals should
follow these steps:
receiving a call for a fire involving chemicals, notify
physicians and hospitals to be prepared to receive possible
poison victims. (Hospitals should have a card file on each
storage facility listing the type of chemicals stored and
the manufacturer of each.)
the downwind area and isolate the area. Patrol this area
to keep spectators out.
attempting to fight the fire, use the correct personal protective
equipment. This includes rubber gloves, boots, turn-outs
and helmets. If contact cannot be avoided, also wear a self-
contained breathing apparatus.
working in areas on the downwind side of the fire. Attack
the fire from a safe distance. Bottles, drums, metal and
aerosol cans are not vented and may explode.
to contain the fire and protect the surroundings. Prevent
the spread of the fire by cooling nearby containers to prevent
raising a flammable, explosive, or toxic dust.
soft water streams such as fog to avoid tearing open
paper containers or breaking jars.
foam when large volumes of flammable solvents are released
from ruptured metal or glass containers.
drums containing flammable solvents with water spray.
a safe distance in case of explosion.
toxic runoff to a minimum by avoiding the use of large quantities
of water. Construct dikes to prevent flow into lakes, streams,
sewers, etc. (the cooling effect of water retards high-
temperature decomposition of chemicals to less toxic compounds).
most fertilizers are quite stable, there have been problems
of fires and explosions with materials such as ammonium nitrate.
Like other inorganic nitrates, ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing agent and will increase the intensity of fire. All grades of ammonium nitrate can be detonated if they are in the proper crystalline form, if the initiating source is sufficiently large or if they are heated under sufficient confinement. The degree of confinement necessary usually is greatest for the purest material.
recommendations for bagged and bulk ammonium nitrate are published
in NFPA No. 490, "Code for the Storage of Ammonium Nitrate."
The standard covers building construction, pile sizes, spacing
and separation of ammonium nitrate from contaminating material
that could increase its sensitivity during a fire. Also covered
are flow, cleanliness of the storage area and precautions
against ignition sources.
fighting procedures for ammonium nitrate should include:
the fire from the upwind side. Use a self-contained breathing
apparatus (vapors from decomposing ammonium nitrate are
as much ventilation as possible to permit smoke, gases and
heat to escape and to prevent pressure build-up.
the burning ammonium nitrate with water to rapidly reduce
the temperature of the burning material.
ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing material (decomposes under
certain conditions to yield oxygen and increase a fire's
intensity), smothering agents such as inert gases, steam,
foam, dry chemicals or sand will have no effect.
Anhydrous ammonia can cause severe burns upon contact. Contact with the liquid ammonia also can cause loss of sight, severe injury of the respiratory membranes and varying degrees of irritation of skin, eyes and mucous membranes. For these reasons, use adequate body protection - a self-contained breathing apparatus with full face shields (air paks) and full protective clothing. If working around the shut-off valves, also wear rubber gloves and a rubber apron to protect your body from contact with liquid.
are exposed to liquid anhydrous ammonia, wash the exposed
area with water for at least 15 minutes or until you receive
ammonia fire fighting procedures should include:
the flow of the anhydrous ammonia gases by shutting off
all valves and disconnecting all hoses from storage, nurse
and applicator tanks.
in an enclosed area, ventilate the fire.
the storage vessels cooled with water.
fires can be extinguished with dry chemicals, carbon dioxide
or a water spray.
use proper personal protective equipment.
Urea is classified as a non-flammable material. Urea will not support combustion by itself but melts at a temperature of 534.2 degrees F. At temperatures higher than 534.2 degrees F, it begins to decompose, giving off mildly toxic fumes. For this reason, the toxicity hazard of urea is given as slightly dangerous.
fire fighting procedures should include:
the fire on the upwind side.
the area to reduce the temperature of the burning mass.
adequate ventilation to prevent pressure, temperature and
toxic fumes build-up (self-contained breathing equipment
is recommended to protect personnel against toxic fumes).
Phosphate fertilizers commonly used and stored in blending plants (triple super phosphate, diammonium phosphate) will not support combustion and have a melting point in excess of 1500 degrees C. Both of these are rated as slightly dangerous in toxicity.
fighting procedures should include:
the area to reduce the temperature.
protective clothing and breathing apparatus.
Muriate of potash is the principal potassium-containing fertilizer used as a bulk blending ingredient. It is rated slightly dangerous as a fire and toxicity hazard.
fighting procedures for muriate of potash is the same as for
in a warehouse or farm storage area where agricultural chemicals
are stored may create a great hazard to fire fighters, inhabitants
and livestock, because the possibility of poisoning is added
to the usual fire hazards. In addition, if proper fire fighting
procedure is not followed, water or chemicals used to fight
the fire could easily spread contamination over a wide area.
For this reason, planning and training for chemical fires
are very important.
planning and inspection for local fire departments.
visit each large chemical storage warehouse and take notes
of the following:
layout of the facility.
of hydrants, normal and alternate access roads, gates,
building occupancies and land use.
of controlling drainage at and adjacent to the facility.
a list of day and night telephone numbers of:
(familiar with the products).
of the products.
a card file on each facility to make the officers aware
of the hazards they might face in fighting the fire.
a reference manual of the systems of poisoning and what
to do in case of contact with the chemicals stored in the
chemical storage procedures to owners or managers. Chemicals
should be stored away from other fire hazards.
protective clothing upon leaving the site and impound with
contaminated fire fighting equipment.
returning to the station, shower and shampoo thoroughly
with soap and water to remove traces of toxic chemicals.
inner clothing with detergent and put on clean clothes.
for signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning.
all personal clothing, protective clothing and respirators
in an isolated area. Put on coveralls and rubber gloves
and use respiratory protection when cleaning clothing and
and secure scene to keep people away.
public health department for disposal instructions and approval.
waste and runoff same as for a product spill. Personal protective
equipment is required.
aware of aid available to you. The National Agricultural
Chemicals Association has a network of safety teams to assist
you in case of major pesticide spillage that may result
from a fire. To contact NCA, telephone Cincinnati, Ohio
(513) 961-4300, and ask for help.
Transportation Emergency Center (CHEMTREC) provides emergency
personnel with information on safety measures in handling
hazardous chemicals involved in accidents on the nation's
highways, railroads and waterways. CHEMTREC is a voluntary
program operated by 165 U.S. member companies. Assistance
is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their nationwide
emergency telephone number is 1-800-424-9300.
Procedures for Fighting Fire Involving Fertilizer Material,
Missouri Farmers Association, Inc., 201 South Seventh Street,
Columbia, Missouri 65201.
Department Guidelines - Agricultural and Garden Chemical
Fires, Chevron Chemical Company, 575 Market Street,
San Francisco, California 94105.
Manual for Handling and Warehousing Class B Poison Pesticides,
National Agricultural Chemicals Association, 1155 15th Street,
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.
Hazards of Stored Pesticides, Agricultural Extension
Service, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108.
Publication #: GO1908
This document is
published by the University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia,
Columbia, MO 65211. Publication date: October 1993.
David E. Baker, University Extension, Department of Agricultural
Engineering, University of Missouri and Lincoln University,
Columbia, Missouri 65211.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work Acts
of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United
States Department of Agriculture. Ronald J. Turner, Interim
Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri
and Lincoln University, Columbia, Missouri 65211. An equal
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.