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Air conditioner at Praxair blamed in fire that prompts evacuation of 50

About 50 employees of Praxair in the Town of Tonawanda were evacuated Thursday from a burning building at the industrial site.

No serious injuries were reported. Damage was estimated at $275,000 to the building and contents.

Sheridan Park Volunteer Fire Department Chief Randy Rider said the fire, which started shortly after 11 a.m., was blamed on a faulty air conditioner inside a construction trailer located in Building 70, a two-story structure on the 105-acre Praxair campus, located off Sheridan Drive.

"We were on location within a minute of being dispatched," Rider said.

The fire had gone unnoticed for a while, and by the time firefighters arrived, they found the second floor "fully involved," Rider said. Praxair workers manufacture industrial gases and containers for gases.

"Our first arriving crews did an amazing job because of the circumstances of the fire," Rider said. "We treated it as a [hazardous materials] situation, because the main building houses several hazardous materials."

Employees inside that building were moved to another building.

Rider said firefighters got the fire under control within half an hour.

A firefighter suffered a shoulder injury battling the blaze and was treated at the scene, Rider said.

Volunteers from Brighton, Ellwood and Kenmore fire companies assisted firefighters from the Sheridan Park Volunteer Fire Department. Rider said two Amherst fire companies provided backup.

Praxair, based in Danbury, Conn., is the largest provider of industrial gases in North and South America, with 25,000 employees and operations in 40 countries. Its core products are atmospheric gases -- nitrogen, oxygen and argon -- but it also makes hydrogen, where the growth is concentrated. Acetylene and propane are other products.

Its Technology Center off Sheridan Drive employs more than 1,100 workers in 25 buildings on the site.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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