Incident: Fume Hood Fire

A fire occurred in a fume hood in a University Lab. A hot plate was mistakenly left on by a researcher. The researcher was running a synthesis reaction. He was using an oil bath on a hot plate as a heat source. When the researcher completed work for the day, he removed the compound that he was synthesizing. He thought that he had turned the hot plate off, but actually turned it on high. The oil heated up and caught fire. The fire then involved a flask of solvent that was stored in the hood. Another researcher who happened to be working late in the lab saw the fire and extinguished it with a dry chemical extinguisher. The fire caused moderate damage to the fume hood and the equipment stored in the hood. Due to the chemical contamination that resulted from the fire the fume hood had to be thoroughly decontaminated prior to reuse. Following the decontamination the fume hood's face velocity was checked to ensure that it was operating properly before placing it back in use.

It was also found that in the fume hood adjacent to where the fire occurred a hot plate was left on and not being used. In order to prevent a similar incident from recurring all electrical devices should be turned off and unplugged when work is completed for the day. It is also recommended that surplus chemicals not be stored in a fume hood where a reaction is taking place. There were two water reactive chemicals stored in very close proximity to the reaction as well as an extremely toxic cyanide compound. The cyanide compound was still sealed in its original shipping can. The heat from the fire caused the can to develop pressure and expand. The situation would have been much more serious if any of the three compounds became involved in the fire.

The responding researchers in the lab did a good job. They evaluated the size of the fire and determined that it was safe to extinguish with a dry chemical extinguisher. They then called 9-911 and waited in the lab for Public Safety to respond.