UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: A fire occurred at a support building near McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin Air Force Base just before 10 a.m., according to a public affairs report. The resulting smoke plume that contained potentially hazardous material has dissipated, officials said. There were no significant injuries, and the incident is currently under investigation.
A little before 10 a.m., an explosion occurred at McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin Air Force Base. A 1,000-foot cordon has been established, and the surrounding area has been evacuated.
A public affairs report identified the source of the smoke as methyl chloride, also known as chloromethane. This colorless gas is primarily used to produce silicones, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Short term exposure to high concentrations of the gas can cause severe neurological effects, and may cause effects on the heart rate, blood pressure, liver, and kidneys in humans. Other side effects may include dizziness, blurred or double vision, fatigue, confusion, slurred speech, and vomiting. The EPA warns that these symptoms can develop within a few hours.
Base officials urge the public to avoid contact with the smoke if possible. There have been no reported injuries to any base employees as a result of this incident.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation.