The Niceville Fire Department recently shared photos on their Facebook page from the scene of the July 5 fire at the McKinley Climatic Lab on Eglin Air Force Base.
The fire, which sent up a plume of dense smoke, damaged the facility and its cooling system. In the immediate aftermath, people within a 1,000-foot perimeter of the fire were ordered to “shelter in place” and turn off air conditioning units that would have brought outside air into the building as the incident unfolded. That order was lifted a few hours later.
Methylene chloride was released during the incident. The chemical is used to lower temperatures in the lab where tests are conducted to gauge the impact of extreme temperatures on everything from snow tires to airplanes. The refrigerant is a known carcinogen.
According to the DEP notice, 10,000 gallons of a toxic chemical, methylene chloride, was released during the fire, which occurred in the air-handling system of a building near the McKinley Climatic Laboratory.
But Eglin officials said they provided that information to the DEP to meet state laws requiring public notification in a timely matter of pollution releases that could affect the environment. The 10,000-gallon number represents the maximum amount of the refrigeration coolant the pipes could hold. Investigators have yet to assess the damage to the pipes, so it is not known how much of the chemical was present or how much of it burned.