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Secretary Overcome By Toxic Fumes Firefighters Cordon Off City Block, Remove Barrels From Truck

Tue., Jan. 31, 1995

A paper company secretary was rushed to a hospital Monday after being overcome by fumes from a leaking barrel of chemicals outside her office.

The woman was treated and released from Deaconess Medical Center.

Meanwhile, firefighters spent hours Monday afternoon removing three barrels from a van parked outside the McGinnis Independent Paper Company, Inc., S124 Wall.

A block of Wall from First to Second was closed to traffic for three hours as Spokane Fire Department crews and a hazardous materials unit worked to remove the barrels, including one that may have been leaking the poison, hydrofluoric acid, said Skip Powell, a Spokane Fire Department battalion chief.

Powell and a McGinnis worker refused to identify the secretary who vomited and got weak in the knees after smelling the noxious odors.

“She called in. She was released,” said Fred Inkster, a McGinnis sales representative. “Apparently, she’s OK.”

Firefighters got a call about 2 p.m. regarding the noxious odor coming from the leaky drum in the van.

They quickly cordoned off the block, took the McGinnis employee to the hospital and moved other employees to the west half of the paper company building, away from the van.

Inkster said paper company workers picked up the barrels while cleaning a warehouse at Broadway and Monroe and parked the van outside the downtown building about 10:30 a.m.

“The vapors were quite apparent as the rig sat outside this morning,” he said.

The 55-gallon drum emitting the odor was heavily rusted and may have contained hydrofluoric acid, said Mike Ault of the Department of Ecology’s spill response team.

Inkster said the leaky barrel was found outside the warehouse and doesn’t belong to the company. Another barrel was filled with motor oil. The third contained what may have been a phosphoric compound, Powell said.

Firefighters workers removed the barrels, rinsed off under a portable decontaminating shower and took the drums away for further testing.

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