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Magnesium fire still blazing at Machida metalworking plant


Firefighters on Wednesday morning continued to battle a fire that broke out at a metalworking plant in Machida on Tuesday afternoon.

The fire has been raging for 18 hours so far and firefighters are hampered by the fact that they cannot use water because magnesium is burning and water combined with scorched magnesium can cause an explosion, Fuji TV quoted firefighters as saying.

The fire broke out at the Shibata Tekuramu plant. So far, over 1,400 square meters of the 2-floor facility have been completely burned.

Eight employees were injured during the blaze, one of whom was severely burned and remains in a critical condition, police said.

The plant manufactures parts for computers and cell phones. The first floor warehouse of the facility stores approximately 80 kilograms of magnesium and 20 kilograms of aluminum.

According to police, a spark from a soldering iron started the fire at around 4 p.m., Fuji TV reported.

Firefighters have been spraying sand on the blaze and using water to keep the surrounding buildings from catching fire.

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To have that kind of factory in a residential area... ? ? ?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Any firemen in here that know if fires like that can be extinguished with sand or powder?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Any firemen in here that know if fires like that can be extinguished with sand or powder?

Not a fireman, but I have worked in a lab. The only way to deal with a magnesium fire is to deprive it of oxygen, so you've basically got to bury the fuel in sand. Nasty stuff when it gets going.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The factory was probably there first, so the opposite could maybe be equally asked: "They allow modern residences right next to a factory?"

Actually Japan still has serious problems in many places with non-existent zoning laws.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I used to work in a machine shop working on magnesium engine blocks and other magnesium parts and we had 'Class D' fire extinguishers EVERYWHERE in the place. We had the occasional scare if some shavings got really hot and smoked but knowing full well how fast things could go sideways always gave us a healthy respect for the metal and we NEVER needed to use a single 'Class D' fire extinguisher. I hate to have been there when all hell broke loose because if you know how hot magnesium can burn once it gets going, there's not much to to stop it. Scary situation to be in.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If you watch this news on TV, you'll see that "factory" may be a little deceiving. It's one of the very common small "factories" the size of a neighborhood storefront shop/residence, located in an area that appears to be a mix of residences and small commercial enterprises. It's about the same size, area-wise, as your neighborhood liquor shop or convenience store. It's not a huge plant that one might imagine from the term "factory". Japan, particularly in older neighborhoods, has many such neighborhood small "factories", more like workshops really, manufacturing small parts and the like, supplying vendors further up the (often multi-layered) supply chain to major manufacturers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


Halon work?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


facility stores approximately 80 kilograms of magnesium and 20 kilograms of aluminum.

I agree with your statement that it is most probably one of those 'workshop' factories. Looking at the above, they didn't really have a large supply of either.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Werent the old beetle blocks made from magnesium? Unrelated, but whats the temp at which mag ignites?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm not sure about Beetles. The Fiero had magnesium component-related issues, though.

If it's finely ground/scraped/filed, a spark from flint and steel will ignite magnesium; there are survival/camping fire starter tools using the principle. I own and use one, in fact; they're quite common and readily available.

In bulk, though, I'd expect it to take welding, not soldering as has been mentioned in some news stories, to produce sparks with even a slim chance of igniting it.

Apparently the workshop/factory was producing circuit boards, which these days are typically produced using reflow or wave soldering, neither of which I would expect to produce any sparks at all, or anything else--short of a major short in a power cable maybe--capable of igniting bulk magnesium.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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