Earlier this month, metal dust ignited and burned inside duct work at a RSA Engineered Products manufacturing facility. RSA designs and manufactures components and assemblies for military and commercial aircraft OE manufacturers, systems integration companies, and several government entities around the world. Their products have been a part of various types of aircraft for over 50 years.

The fire in the Simi Valley facility was reported around 10am on March 5th when employees noticed smoke coming from a vent in the ceiling and called 911. Approximately 70 employees were evacuated from the facility, but no one was injured.  About 40 firefighters, police officers, and hazmat team members reported to the scene. According to fire department officials, the machine shop in the facility has a dust collection system that expels metal dust through ducting and the fire involved metal dust inside the duct work. Captin Mike Lindberry of the Ventura County Fire Department stated, “Dust from metals is highly combustible, and if it comes in contact with a heat source, you can have quite a fire.”

Metal dust fires cannot be extinguished in a traditional manner, as they are water-reactive. Instead of suppressing the fire, it can react violently and grow larger if water is applied. Hazmat teams were brought to the scene to seal off both sides of the duct to eliminate the ability of the fire to travel. The fire suffocated itself by approximately 11am as it burned out all of the fuel and oxygen within the duct work. Firefighters kept watch inside the ductwork using thermal imaging cameras to confirm that the heat was cooling off and that no additional measures were needed.

Employees of RSA were allowed to return to the facility, which suffered little damage, once firefighters determined that the air was free of hazardous gases. As part of decontamination, the firefighters who entered the building were also hosed down to ensure that no hazardous materials had entered their respiratory system.

The initial cause of the fire remains under investigation.