Arts St. Fire in New Orleans, LA

Overview

A warehouse fire at the Advanced Commercial Contracting facility on 2740 Arts Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, occurred at approximately 6:30 PM local time on May 14, 2004, and lasted through the early morning of May 15, 2004. The fire produced a visible plume that traveled in the neighboring areas. This event generated a legal case with approximately 1,000 plaintiffs claiming adverse effects caused by the chemicals in the fire plume.

EnviroComp's Role

We were retained by the defendants in this case. We put together a team of experts to investigate the event. Our chemical and combustion engineers investigated the dynamics of the fire and the rate of production of combusted materials. Among our results, we concluded that no significant amounts of ammonia were generated in the fire. Our combustion experts concluded that, even if ammonia had been generated, the heat from the fire itself would have decomposed most of the ammonia. Our dispersion modeling experts used a real fire model (ALOFT-FT) to simulate the transport and diffusion of the fire plume. Our ALOFT-FT simulations (Figure 1) confirmed that most of the plume tended to move aloft due to a strong plume rise and only a small fraction of the plume could generate ground-level concentrations with a potential impact on the population in close proximity to the fire. The strong plume rise was also confirmed by videos (Video 1) of the fire.

Our efforts were instrumental in achieving a dismissal of the plaintiffs' class allegations, which led to the withdrawal of plaintiffs' counsel and the collapse of the case. A peer-reviewed journal paper describing the work we performed is available here.

Visuals

Figure 1 Video 1 (low resolution)