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A tractor-trailer truck carrying a lithium-metal waste mixture exploded and caught fire Monday, forcing the four-hour evacuation of about 30 nearby homes because smoke from the burning material is considered toxic, the Ontario County Sheriff's Department said.

Phelps firefighters had to wait for representatives of Ultra Technologies of Newark, N.Y., a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak that makes lithium batteries, to arrive with a fire suppressant made of graphite. Fire officials said "lithium is listed as having a violent reaction with water" or chemical extinguishers.

Truck driver Terry Wall, 43, of Loveland, Ohio, who was not injured, said he was taking the material from the Ultra plant to a disposal facility in Sauget, Ill.

Sheriff's Lt. Robert Green said one of seven 55-gallon drums of the lithium-metal mixture exploded, setting the others on fire. "It appears there was high pressure in one of the containers," he said, adding that the cause of the pressure had not been determined.

The tractor-trailer was demolished, he said.

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