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Dangerous combination of chemicals causes fire that injured 20 firefighters

A three-alarm chemical fire at a Cranston business sent at least 14 firefighters to the hospital Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (WJAR)

A dangerous combination of chemicals is to blame for a fire that sent more than a dozen Cranston firefighters to the hospital.

An employee at Prosys Finishing Technologies in Cranston was pouring chemicals together to dispose of them on Jan. 29. One of the chemicals didn't mix well with the others, which caused a fire and toxic spill on Elmwood Avenue.

“It could've been a worse situation," said Paul Casey, director of EMS for Cranston. "We had a daycare right next door and that's going to lead to panicked parents coming down to get their kids when they see all the emergency lights there so the mass casualty part of it could have been worse."

The daycare center, First Year's Learning Center, was evacuated and no one there was injured. Both the daycare and the building that houses Prosys, which is located at 1420 Elmwood Ave., are in an industrial zone in Cranston.

According to city records, Prosys, which makes materials for jewelry, moved in more than a decade before the daycare.

NBC 10 News wanted to know why a childcare center is allowed to operate right next to a building that contains hazardous substances.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families said child care centers have to pass inspections for fire, lead, and radon but state regulations do not require that areas surrounding daycare centers be inspected. The First Year's Learning Center told NBC 10 it had no comment.

More than a week after the fire, 20 firefighters are still showing symptoms of chemical exposure, including weakness, nausea, vomiting and difficulty breathing. Six of them are out on injury leave. It’s unknown how long they'll be off the job.

“As much as we'd like to be bulletproof, sometimes we're not and we can fall victim to some of the same stuff that other people do,” Casey said. “And this is a concern because we don't know in the future what's going to happen to these guys and that's an unknown right now.”

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