An environmental cleanup company has been called to remove large amounts of white foam that have spilled from a hangar to a street at the San Jose-Santa Clara border today, fire officials said.
The aqueous film forming foam came out from a hangar that malfunctioned on Mineta San Jose International Airport property, Fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said.
The foam blanketed a section of Martin Avenue, stood about 3-and-a-half feet tall and filled about the size of a city block, he said.
San Jose fire crews went to the scene around 11 a.m. in response to a fire alarm that accidentally went off. They arrived to find foam that was roughly 10 feet tall, but no signs of flames, Matlow said.
The foam is used to put out flammable liquid fires and leaves a film over the liquid to prevent oxygen from entering, the captain said.
The foam is a carcinogen in its concentrated form and could lead to skin irritation when diluted, the captain said.
Matlow spoke with a bicyclist who didn’t seem concerned after riding through the foam and “deliberately playing in the bubbles,” Matlow said.
Anyone who makes contact with the foam should rinse themselves in water and seek medical attention, according to Matlow.
Some of the foam has entered storm drains, but hazardous materials teams from both cities have been able to trap the material, which poses an environmental hazard, he said.
Signature Flight Support, a private business that owns the hangar, has contracted with Clean Harbors to remove the foam. The cleanup company will distribute a dissolving agent that will break down the bubbles and drive a giant vacuum cleaner truck in the area, Matlow said.
The hangar standing at about 40 to 50 feet tall opened in January and was used during Super Bowl 50, according to Matlow.
Crews hope to clear the foam before rainfall this weekend, but there’s no estimate of when the work will be completed, he said.
People across the street from the hangar have been able to drive away from the scene without trouble, according to Matlow.
In his years working with the Fire Department Matlow has taught about foam deluge systems, but has never seen one go off.
“This is a new experience for me,” he said.
No injuries have been reported.
Santa Clara fire crews were notified of the spill shortly before 1:30 p.m., Santa Clara Fire Battalion Chief Drew Miller said.
Officers from San Jose and Santa Clara are controlling traffic in the area, according to Miller.
The public is advised to avoid Martin Avenue east of Lafayette Street as the cleanup effort is still underway.