Deputy Fire Chief: Tank in halon explosion is outdated

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Updated: 2/01 3:37 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. – There are more details about the gas that discharged Thursday night, sending two workers at the state office campus to the hospital.

Halon is a fire suppressant used to extinguish fires when water isn't an option. On Thursday, a halon tank somehow discharged as workers were loading it into a truck to be removed. However, if the accident had not happened outside, the consequences could have been much more severe.  

Fire fighters first responded for a report of a tank that exploded and found two men, both with injuries severe enough to be taken to Albany Medical Center.

The cause behind their injuries was halon gas according to Deputy Fire Chief Frank Nemey with the Albany Fire Department.

"Halon was designed to smother a fire through asphyxiation," said Nemey.

It's not flammable or toxic as it suppresses fire by pushing out or removing the oxygen in a room .

Halon tanks are used in rooms where there are different types of computers, electronics, and wires, things that if they get wet, they get ruined.  So, in the event of a fire they use gas that suppresses it.

"So it doesn't damage electronics, they can recover hard drivers and information when they need to," said Chief Nemey.

There are many different types of halon but the original type was found to be unsafe.

"They found that the original halon systems and chemicals were hazardous to the ozone layers," Nemey explained.

The fire suppressant had the potential to be hazardous to people too, if you are inside a closed room when the gas is released.

"That same asphyxiation is a problem for humans as well," he said.

While it is best to be outside when handling halon, it can still cause injury when that gas is stored in a tank in a liquid state and very cold.

Nemey said "The liquid can cause frost bite; the air coming out under pressure, just air moving will damage skin as well"

The two men that were hurt suffered non-life threatening injuries and at least one of them suffered burns.  The tanks are regulated and must be inspected.  It's unknown what condition the tank that ruptured was in, but the fire chief said it was at least 10 years old and out dated. 

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