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Fire at Florence recycling center releases toxic fumes

June 11, 2010 |  3:03 pm

Firefighters knocked down a blaze Friday afternoon at a recycling center in Florence but not before toxic fumes and runoff from burning titanium and magnesium were released.

At least one civilian was injured in an explosion after firefighters arrived on the scene, authorities said.

The cause of the fire at United Alloys and Metals on Slauson Avenue near Central Avenue was not immediately clear.

A total of 160 firefighters knocked down the blaze with water and foam on the burning metal about 1:30 p.m., less than three hours after the emergency call was placed, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Cecil Manresa.

Noxious fumes being released from the yard were stopped once the blaze was put out, but the toxic runoff of water used to put it out had to be dammed up to limit its flow into storm drains, Manresa said. At least one nearby school was locked down to prevent exposure.

Jeni McLaughlin, a teacher at 49th Street Elementary School, said air conditioners were shut down, and about 1,000 students were forced to stay inside their classrooms through lunch and beyond.

“We couldn’t let anyone outside,” she said in an interview on her cellphone as she waited in her classroom with her students.

She said lunch was delivered to each classroom by staff members wearing masks to limit inhalation of fumes.

-- Robert Faturechi