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Police and fire

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Small fire, cloud of oxygen draw emergency response

A mechanical problem Saturday caused a truck hauling liquid oxygen to release a white cloud of oxygen gas in a residential neighborhood in north Fort Wayne, a city fire official said.

Battalion Chief Keith Oberlin said the surrounding area was not evacuated, but residents of a nearby apartment complex, which sat about 100 feet from the leaking truck, were asked to shut their windows and stay away from the cloud while the leak was brought under control.

Oxygen, while not a noxious gas, can be unsafe in large doses, Oberlin said. "Too much oxygen is just like hyperventilation," he said.

The truck was making a delivery to Apria Heathcare at 7515 Westfield Drive, near Coldwater Road, when a pump that was transferring liquid oxygen from the truck to a tank at the site malfunctioned and caught fire. Authorities were dispatched just after 8 p.m.

Firefighters put out the fire and within about an hour managed to shut off a jammed valve on the truck and stop the leak.

"The worst part about trying to shut the valve off was visibility," Oberlin said. "They couldn't see anything because the cloud covered everything."

The wind carried the oxygen gas to the north and northwest. The cloud of gas was dissipating after about 300 feet, Oberlin said.

Paramedics treated the truck driver at the scene after he inhaled some chemicals from a fire extinguisher.

aingersoll@jg.net

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