GREENE TOWNSHIP —
Fire in a Greene Township factory that makes tear gas among other products sent a dozen employees of Combined Tactical Systems to the hospital for treatment. This marks the third fire at the plant in a little over 18 months.
The fire at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday was in the “gas house” where tear gas canisters are made, said Mike Cadman, Jamestown fire chief.
Its cause is under investigation. However, factory employees were taken to the hospital only as a precaution and no injuries among them were reported, said Theresa Naim, area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Erie office.
Initially, six employees were taken by ambulance to the hospital after suffering irritation from the raw tear gas chemical used in the plant, he said.
Six other employees who went to a parking lot as they are required to do during a fire were exposed to tear gas fumes when they returned to their work stations in other buildings and also were taken to the hospital, Cadman said.
“The smoke and fire put some of the chemical into the air,” he said. “We believe some doors and windows of the other buildings were open when the employees left and some of the gas made it inside so they were exposed when they went back to work.”
The employees all were released after treatment at UPMC Horizon, Greenville, said Carly Manino, media relations specialist.
“There was some pretty substantial heat and smoke damage but last summer they put in a state of the art sprinkler system in the gas house and it did its job,” Cadman said. “It knocked down about 90 percent of the fire before we got there.”
Greenville and West Salem fire departments assisted Jamestown.
Don Smith, chief executive officer of Combined Tactical, did not return a call seeking comment.
An OSHA inspector was sent to the site and the agency will conduct a formal investigation, Naim said. A final report from the agency could take up to six months.
Combined Tactical’s website says the company that employs 170 workers makes non-lethal munitions. They are used by police and security agencies around the world.
Other products include flash-bang grenades, smoke grenades, rubber bullets and pepper spray.
The last incident at the factory was on April 22 and sent an employee to the hospital following an explosion and fire. That accident remains under OSHA investigation.
On Feb. 20, 2012, an explosion at the plant damaged a building but no injuries were reported. The accident was the result of tear gas pellets being transferred from a 55 gallon drum to smaller containers which exploded causing the drum’s lid to rupture, resulting in the tear gas mixture igniting the fire.
Herald Business Editor Michael Roknick contributed to the story.