Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow Collapses Commercial Building In Milford

Emergency crews said the workers of the multi-unit commercial building at 282 Woodmont Road escaped serious injury, but two were transported to the hospital for unknown injuries.

"They were able to actually crawl through the rubble and debris and get out on their own," said Milford Fire Capt. Christopher Zak.

While it appears all workers are accounted for, police were bringing in K-9 units from the state's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force to enter the building and make sure no one was left behind. It was later determined the dogs might not be necessary as all occupants seem to be accounted for -- and the building rife with chemicals might prove too hazardous for the highly trained dogs.

In addition to local police and fire units, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is on the scene and taking over the incident command since the building contains chemicals such as cyanide and sulphuric acid, according to emergency officials. It is believed there were approximately 3,000 gallons of chemicals inside one of the machine shops that occupied the space.

The presence of the chemicals complicates the cleanup process, according to DEP Emergency Response Coordinator Ken LeClerc. Crews will have to carefully lift the roof off tomorrow and then enter the debris with hazmat suits. The DEP will be aided by Clean Harbors Environmental Services, which retains a location across the street from the collapsed building.

The dangers of the cleanup cannot be understated, particularly when it comes to sulphuric acid, according to LeClerc. "It'll burn right through you," he said.

The cleanup will also be conducted with care so as to prevent any further damage to the millions of dollars worth of antique and exotic car parts that were inside Carbon County Chrome. The state of the three 1950-era Chevrolet Corvettes that were inside remains unknown. The names of all four business have not been released, but another is Miller Marine Canvas.

While the cause of the collapse remains under investigation, Zak said it appears that the flat wooden roof on the structure gave out under the weight of the dense snow and ice that continues to pile up across the region.

"If one section (of the building) falls, it'll fail catastrophically," he said.

When the building collapsed, a resident who was nearby came to the rescue and used a backhoe to move snow around an area so the gas company could shut off the gas supply to the building. The gas leak has since been contained, officials said, but nearby businesses were evacuated as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Zak urged homeowners and business owners to heed calls to clear roofs of snow and ice, to prevent such an incident from occurring again.

"Hopefully this is the last," Zak said.

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