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November 4, 1974

A Fire Hazard

Author Affiliations

Peoria, III

JAMA. 1974;230(5):669. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240050017006

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To the Editor.—  The COMMENTARY (229:1181, 1974) brought forcibly to mind an episode occurring on May 16, 1974, in which large numbers of people were threatened by highly concentrated oxides of nitrogen. A 235 x 48-meter (784 x 160-foot), 80,000-ton-capacity fertilizer warehouse, one third filled with nitrogen-rich commercial fertilizer, caught fire. The frame structure quickly burned to the ground, generating temperatures sufficient to ignite the fertilizer.The huge plume of orange smoke could be seen for many miles. There would have been an immediate emergency had the wind been from the north. Fortunately it was from the southwest, thus dispersing the smoke over a nonpopulated area.The fire was reported quickly enough, but it was eight hours before health officials were notified, with another two to three hours before the extreme hazard of the burning contents was fully appreciated. Fire fighting difficulties caused another ten hours to lapse before the