Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin's abandoned Allentown mill has burned for the 5th time since April. The last fire at Montex Mills was Monday.
The Allentown Morning Call's Daryl Nerl reports:
Contractors hired by the city to dismantle part of the Montex Textiles factory in south Allentown were ordered to cease work Tuesday when a pile of demolition debris — including a mysterious flammable substance — ignited for the second time in two days.
The debris was removed and demolition work is expected to continue today, said fire Capt. Butch Nonnemacher.
Meanwhile, a laboratory analysis of the flammable substance ordered by the Allentown Fire Department showed it contained metal shavings and powder that included two highly combustible elements — magnesium and phosphorus, Nonnemacher said.
Investigators are exploring the possibility that the shavings and powder were spread by arsonists who set fire to the abandoned 41/2-story factory at Sixth and Cumberland streets on April 19, Nonnemacher said.
It took firefighters two days to extinguish the initial blaze, which caused enough damage to prompt city building inspectors to recommend at least a partial demolition of what remains.…
It is also possible, Nonnemacher said, that the shavings and powder, which also contained aluminum, calcium, iron, manganese and zinc, may have been a waste product of manufacturing. Montex produced fabrics.
Phosphorus is a waxy white solid used in detergents, fertilizers and explosives.
Magnesium is a silvery-white metal often used as an alloying agent to make aluminum cans and strong, lightweight parts for vehicles and machinery. On its own and when it is shaved into thin strips, magnesium is highly flammable, particularly when exposed to water.
That provides some explanation of what happened Monday, when construction workers from Penmar Systems Inc. of Northampton accidentally set fire to debris while cutting away fire-weakened portions of the building. When they tried to douse the blaze, it only intensified.
The two Penmar employees and a security guard assigned to the site were overcome with fumes. They went through decontamination and were treated and released at St. Luke's Hospital-Allentown Campus on Monday. As it turned out, nothing they inhaled was toxic, Nonnemacher said.
As a precaution, the city evacuated 18 families who live along S. Sixth Street near the abandoned factory on Monday. They were allowed to return to their homes later Monday.
No one was hurt in Tuesday's incident, the fifth fire at the site since the initial blaze in April.