By Kathy Antoniotti
and Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writers
COPLEY TWP.: More than 60 firefighters from a dozen Summit and Medina county communities responded to a chemical fire Friday morning at the YRC Freight trucking terminal near state Route 21.
One employee was injured in the blaze and taken to Akron Children’s Hospital.
The Copley Fire Department received a call of a “serious” fire in a semitrailer at a dock at the company off Copley Road at 9:07 a.m.
Three semitrailers were on fire when the first firefighters arrived on the scene, said Assistant Fire Chief Keith Moore.
“Initial reports of their cargo indicated one contained a chemical called dimethyl ether that can react with water. Due to that information, that trailer was let burn until the chemical was consumed, then the fire was extinguished,” said Moore.
Firefighters extinguished the two semitrailers that contained dry goods and household items.
Dimethyl ether, a colorless gas used in various compounds and as an aerosol propellant, is highly flammable.
The fire sent clouds of thick black smoke billowing east toward businesses and homes on Cleveland-Massillon Road. The Summit County Hazardous Materials Response Team also arrived at the scene.
There was minimal damage to the building, Moore said.
Dockworker Pete Venturini said he was 10 doors away from the first trailer when the fire started.
“I heard a little noise. I seen flames and I seen a guy run out of the trailer. At the same time, I heard a boom and a big fireball came out of the trailer horizontally,” said Venturini, who indicated the worker had burns on his face.
Fire officials did not disclose the extent of the man’s injuries.
The fire was under control within an hour.
Kids Academy of Copley, a child care center, and other businesses in the immediate area on Copley Road and Cleveland-Massillon Road were evacuated as a precaution, said Police Chief Michael Mier.
Kids Academy alerted parents and many picked up their children from the center before a bus transported them to Copley High School for safety. In the end, 28 children were taken to the high school.
Director and owner Veronika Fisher said the children loved the chance to ride on a school bus.
“It was actually perfect timing,” she said. “Everybody was changed, fed, happy.”
Kids Academy brought toys, diapers, bottles and all the kids’ belongings to the high school where more parents came to pick them up.
Rod Burger, who has lived in the area for about 30 years, said he had “never seen anything like” the black smoke that billowed from the fire.
YRC Freight released a one-sentence statement saying it was “cooperating with the authorities as part of [the] ongoing investigation.”
The regional fire investigation team was dispatched to the scene to determine the cause of the fire.