COLUMBIA CITY – Two hours later, firefighters were dumping water over their heads while kneeling in some grass under the hot sun.
Other emergency officials began packing up a small tent and chairs that had been set up near the C&R Plating Corp. at 302 Factory Ave.
And still other emergency workers were hosing down what looked like oxygen tanks and putting away decontamination pools.
The empty homes and businesses around the area gave off the eerie vibe of a ghost town, having been evacuated earlier in the day because of a chemical fire at the plating company.
The chemical fire started about 1 p.m., and it prompted officials to ask residents six blocks to the north to shut their windows and turn off their air conditioners during a blistering summer day.
Later, emergency officials evacuated eight blocks’ worth of homes and businesses around the nearby Chauncey and Line streets areas.
At first, methods to put out the fire failed, Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said.
After firefighters determined the chemical they were dealing with was sodium hydrosulfite-F, they changed their strategy and were able to extinguish the fire about 2:45 p.m., the mayor said.
An employee with the company was taken to a hospital after inhaling fumes and several firefighters and police officers were treated for a burning sensation on their skin. All those who were affected by the chemical were treated and released, the mayor said.
Officials gave the all-clear about 3:45 p.m., meaning residents could return to their homes.
According to its website, the plating company specializes in electroless nickel plating, and zinc, zinc-alloy or any of our other special finishing processes.
The Whitley County Fire Department, Whitley County Emergency Management Agency, Fort Wayne Fire Department, Allen County-Fort Wayne Haz-Mat Team and Indiana Homeland Security all assisted at the scene.