ShareThis Page

Federal authorities looking into second fire at tear gas plant

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Federal authorities are investigating a fire at a Mercer County tear gas plant that has been the target of Occupy protests and a cyberattack by a hacker group in recent months.

Combined Systems Inc. sustained its second fire in three months Monday at its plant that produces non-lethal tactical munitions and crowd-control devices -- including tear gas canisters that have turned up in Egypt during deadly clashes between a hardline regime and demonstrators involved in the Arab Spring.

Special Agent Steven Bartholomew, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said that agency is taking the lead investigating the fire.

"At this point, the fire is being deemed accidental," he said.

Combined Systems chief executive officer Don Smith and chief operating officer Richard Edge were unavailable for comment.

Bartholomew said the fire probably started during a mixing process and involved an equipment malfunction, and there might have been an explosion before the fire. He said he was unsure what chemicals were being mixed.

Youngstown, Ohio, television station WKBN reported that more than 200 employees left the facility and that the company sent them home for the day while crews from seven fire departments dealt with the fire. It took more than an hour to get the fire under control, the station reported.

The fire did not damage other buildings, and no one was injured.

In November, a fire destroyed a separate production building.

Last week, the international hacker group Anonymous claimed it broke into Combined Systems' computers, shut down its website and stole emails and client lists that the group posted online.

The company's website is down, although it is unclear whether that is because of the cyberattack.

Bill Crowley, spokesman for the FBI field office in Pittsburgh, said the agency is "looking into possible cyber crimes" as part of the attack.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me