January 14, 2005
An arson fire at the Advanced Magnesium Alloys Corp. plant on Friday, January 14, 2005, forced thousands of people from their homes. The fire began at approximately 4:30 p.m. in an area of the plant that housed 4000-6000 pounds of magnesium. A disgruntled employee, who had been reprimanded many times for safety violations at the plant and was about to be fired, started the fire. Explosions within the building eventually caused the entire facility to become engulfed in flames. Magnesium is a silvery-white, highly flammable metal. Burning magnesium produces irritating or toxic fumes and typically is extinguished using dry sand because it becomes explosive when in contact with water. Officials decided to let the fire burn itself out because firefighters did not have enough sand and other dry material to suffocate the burning metal. Smoke from the fire, which burned for days, caused emergency officials to temporarily order about 8,000 people from their homes. The Salvation Army and Red Cross set up shelters to house evacuees. No injuries were reported.