Crews battle titanium fire at Mulvane company

Buffco Engineering, Mulvane, logo
Buffco Engineering, Mulvane, logo

MULVANE, Kan. (KSNW) — Several fire departments sent firetrucks to help extinguish a fire at a Mulvane company Wednesday morning, but a train delayed some of the trucks.

The fire started at Buffco Engineering, 200 Industrial Drive, around 10:50 a.m. Buffco is just southwest of Mulvane.

Mulvane Deputy Fire Chief Lowell Ester said the fire started in the deburring room.

“They had a pallet of lithium and aluminum that they had been deburring, cleaning up, and the scrap metal caught on fire,” he said. “The person that was working in there used an extinguisher on it, couldn’t put the fire out, so he got out of the room, closed the door, and they got the fire department called.”

In the quote above, Ester says it was a pallet of lithium and aluminum that they had been deburring. Mulvane Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post that “the cause of the fire was found to be accidental ignition of Titanium and Aluminum shavings while an employee was de-burring.” An employee corroborates that it was titanium and not lithium.

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Workers came in with more extinguishers, but the smoke got too intense, so they had to evacuate the building.

“They did all that they could do, and then they got out, so we had no injuries,” Ester said.

Ester said that when lithium [titanium] starts burning, it is hard to extinguish.

“Part of the problem with lithium [titanium] shavings like that is a lot of times it’ll react with water and explode,” he said. “We were able to have a copious amount of water, and it didn’t flare up on us, and we got it cooled down, so the ignition factor was a lot lower.”

He said some firetrucks could not get to the fire as quickly as hoped.

“We got caught by a train with the only railroad crossing, so the Mulvane engines and Derby engine got held up,” Ester said. “But, we also had an auto-aid agreement, so Belle Plaine engine got here from the west, and they got in there and got a hose line on the fire relatively quickly.”

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He said the Mulvane and Derby engines arrived minutes after the Belle Plaine engine. A truck from Haysville also responded. Ester said Mulvane has auto-aid agreements with several surrounding communities for situations like this.

Firefighters got the tub of shavings that was on fire wheeled out of the building.

Firefighters take fans into Buffco Engineering in Mulvane on Jan. 31, 2024. (KSN News Photo)
Firefighters take fans into Buffco Engineering in Mulvane on Jan. 31, 2024. (KSN News Photo)

“The fire’s pretty much contained to that deburr room,” Ester said. “There is a little bit of smoke damage in the rest of the building, which we’re working on clearing out.”

He said there is quite a bit of electrical damage, and an air handling unit burned up. He put the damage estimate at $100,000 on an $8 million building.

Buffco Engineering said it will be able to stay open and continue with business.

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