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Leak from canister causes small beach fire

March 11, 2001

Stefanie Frith

Hazardous material from a beached U.S. Navy training marker caused a

small fire Saturday on the sand at 23rd Street, Newport Beach Fire

Department said. The marker, which contained phosphorus, was one of three

found on Newport Beach shores in the past three days.

The fire was discovered around 8:28 a.m. Saturday by Newport Beach

lifeguards. After numerous tries with a fire extinguisher to put the

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small flames out, the fire department was called in, said Lt. Mitch White

of the Newport Beach Lifeguard Marine Safety division..

The fire was extinguished by using buckets of water, Newport Beach

fire Capt. Ron Gamble said. Officials said the fire was caused by

phosphorus that leaked from a marker found either Thursday or Friday.

"When the lifeguards found the fire, [the phosphorus] was probably the

size of half of someone's fist," Gamble said. "When we got there, it was

just a few tablespoons."

Gamble said that phosphorus bubbles when it comes into contact with

water, and when it comes in contact with air, it sparks.

"Over time, it would have fizzled away," Gamble said, "but it's good

that no one breathed it in or stepped in it."

The first of the Navy markers, which are used in training exercises

off the coast, was found Thursday by a city maintenance worker who took

it to the fire department, Gamble said. The fire department called the

Orange County Sheriff's Bomb Squad to take it away.

The second marker was found at about 10 a.m. Friday and the third at

around 5:30 p.m. Friday, both by Newport Beach lifeguards. The latter two

were taken away by Newport Beach police, who notified the Orange County

Sheriffs Department Bomb Squad, officials said.

On the markers, which are about two feet long and cylinder-shaped, the

words "U.S. Navy Marker Location Marine MK58 MOD1" are printed as well as

"Contains phosphorus. May cause serious burns. Notify police or military

if found," Newport Beach Police Sgt. Fred Heinecke said.

"When we received the first one, we called the [Seal Beach] Naval

Weapons Station," Gamble said. "They told us that after their training,

they try to collect them all, but sometimes they can't find them all.

Somehow, some get away."

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