Fire damages Detroit chemical company, forces evacuations

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A Detroit company that specializes in adhesives and paint was damaged Thursday by a fire that also forced the evacuation of surrounding homes and a nearby elementary school.

The fire started early Thursday afternoon at Chemical Technology Inc.'s offices and warehouse on the city's east side. reported that the result of the fire was a potentially toxic plume of smoke that forced police and fire crews to evacuate a 300 meter radius around the fire. Fire officials called the fire a level 3 hazardous material situation at its peak.

According to all seven employees were able to escape the building without injury. As of 4:30 p.m. the fire was downgraded to a level 1.

Students at White Elementary were taken to another school a few blocks away due to air quality issues, and parents picked them up there.

Gerhard Weber, the owner of Chemical Technology, told The Detroit News that a spark was caused by employees moving chemicals. The spark created the flames, which quickly spread through the building.

Firefighters said they were initially unsure what materials were burning. The exact cause of the blaze was under investigation, according to fire officials.

The fire was under control by 6 p.m., and residents were allowed to return home. Fire officials were conducting environmental tests.

The neighborhood around the burned building is a mix of homes, small shops and other warehouses.

"I saw a lot of fire and smelled a lot of fumes," 32-year-old Sharlisa Matthews told the Detroit Free Press. "Now I feel dizzy. I'm worried."

Resident Dwayne Miller, 36, started walking closer to the blaze Thursday afternoon until he thought better of it and turned around.

"I got scared. I don't want nothing to blow up," he told The Detroit News.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.