FIREFIGHTERS had to call in a specialist chemical team after finding a barrel of unidentified acid in a garage fire.
Rainton Bridge watch manager Steve Robson said the drum had swollen up “like a balloon” in the blaze early yesterday.
Crews had received no warning of what they were facing when they arrived at the scene in Coalbank Square, Low Moorsley, Hetton, shortly before 1am.
Watch manager Robson said: “When we arrived, we were faced with four detached garages, one of which was well alight, and two cars, which were also well alight.
“We had two fire appliances on hand for what we thought was just a fire, but when we got the fire down, we discovered a 45-gallon drum at the back of the garage.
“After a few minutes knocking on doors, we managed to raise a resident who confirmed there was an acid of some kind in the barrel.
“We did not know whether it was leaking or whether it had been involved in the fire.”
The crews called in a specialist chemical appliance from Newcastle city centre station as a precaution and spent around three quarters of an hour spraying the barrel with water.
“We just cooled the barrel for around 45 minutes to get the temperature down to a point where we could inspect it,” said watch manager Robson.
“By this point, it had expended like a balloon from the heat of the fire.”
Eventually, the barrel was cool enough for two firefighters in special protective kit to inspect it and confirm it was safe.
“The chemical was intact inside the barrel, which was the best news from our point of view,” said watch manager Robson.
“If people are going to keep things in garages, we need to be aware of it.
“Keeping a chemical of that type and in that quantity in a domestic garage is potentially life-threatening for my firefighters.”
The barrel and its contents have now been safely disposed of.