Emergency crews were first called to the plant around 8:30 a.m. after a tractor trailer carrying chemicals caught fire.
Units from volunteer fire companies in Cashtown, Fairfield and Gettysburg were initially dispatched to the incident. At the time, units did not know exactly what sort of materials were in the trailer, owned by a contractor at the Knouse facility. Around 8:48 a.m. the company advised Adams County 911 that the trailer was holding a product known as spectra-shield and the Material Safety Data Sheet provided showed a primary ingredient of the product was toluene.
The Material Safety Data Sheet indicated toluene is highly flammable, and that the smoke burning from toluene can cause irritation to exposed skin and eyes.
Due to the large quantity of smoke burning from the trailer, as well as the strong winds, the Adams County Department of Emergency Services announced anyone within one-half mile of the Knouse facility remain in their homes, residence, or work place with windows and doors shut.
The fire was extinguished around 12:30 p.m., and the "shelter-in-place" order was lifted around 1 p.m. Tuesday. Officials say a number of people on the scene complained of respiratory and other symptoms. Nine people were taken to nearby hospitals; five to Gettysburg Hospital, and two each to Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals. Those who received medical attention were employees of Knouse Fruit Company, the trailer company and emergency responders.
Units from four counties in Pennsylvania and Maryland responded to the Knouse Foods incident. Support was received from Emmitsburg Fire Company out of Frederick County and Smithburg Fire Company out of Washington County.
Adams County ambulance service providors included Fairfieold, Biglerville, Gettysburg and Southeast Adams. Franklin County EMS included ambulances from Blue Ridge Summit, Fayetteville, Chambersburg and Mont Alto. Medic units on the scene included those from Gettysburg Hospital, Chambersburg and Fayetteville. Pennsylvania State Police Gettysburg barracks also had a number of units on the scene to provide additional support.