Type: Lessons Learned
Publisher: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
Published As: Public
On Sunday afternoon, April 20, 2014, an employee entering the ORNL Materials & Chemistry building noticed smoke at the end of a hallway. The employee looked through the door to an unoccupied lab and saw small residual flames inside a fume hood along with extensive damage to the hood. Emergency personnel were called and ORNL Fire Department personnel extinguished the residual fire with a portable fire extinguisher. There were no injuries. Six persons were evacuated from the building.
At the time of the event (a Sunday afternoon), there was no activity in the laboratory. A researcher had been in the lab earlier in the day, but it was unoccupied at the time of the event. A round-bottom flask was located on a cork ring which rested atop a common combination stirrer /hot plate. Both controls were in the OFF position. The flask contained a combination of hexane, isopropyl alcohol, and small quantities of other chemicals which had been periodically stirred using the stirrer /hot plate. The flask had not been stirred for several days. The stirrer/hot plate heater had not been used at all for this process.
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