Over 100 firefighters responded to Reading Alloys in South Heidelberg Township Wednesday afternoon after an explosion was reported at the processes facility.
Crews were called to the scene around 1:40pm and found smoke and fire inside the processing building. Located in the 200 block of Old West Penn Avenue, Reading Alloys is a manufacturing processing facility that produce, packages and ships various metal powders.
Initial reports suggested several people were injured. The facility General Manager later confirmed there were no injuries.
Firefighters had a difficult time controlling the fire as material inside the facility was highly reactive with water. “A lot of the products and materials here don’t react well to water, so it’s been a long and drawn out process for us trying to work with staff from the plant, coming up with a plan on how to suppress the fire and put it out” said Western Berks Fire Commissioner, Jared Renshaw.
While crews were dealing with the reactive material inside, parts of the building structure also caught fire. Throughout the afternoon, firefighters used a light mist of water to keep fire from spreading away from the building.
“There were parts of the building that collapsed directly from the explosion, and then also during the incident as it drew out. We did have a portion of the building collapse that came down into the first floor” said Renshaw.
A crew from the Reading Regional Airport was also requested to the scene for their Purple-K extinguishing agent as a backup fire suppression method. Ultimately, Renshaw said The Purple-K was not used.
After several hours, the fire was placed under control at 5:30pm, with only hotspots being checked.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal.