MESA, Ariz. (AP) _ An automotive air-bag plant that earlier this year was fined $89,000 for disregarding safety precautions has been ordered to close until it can submit a safety plan.

After two small fires Tuesday, Mesa Fire Chief John Oliver ordered TRW Vehicle Safety Systems Inc. to stop processing sodium azide, a volatile chemical used to deploy air bags.

``I find that the operations currently in effect pose an imminent threat to both life and property,'' Oliver said.

Thomas Cresante, vice president of operations for TRW's plants here, said the company, which produces 39 percent of the worldwide air-bag market, hoped to resolve the issue within the next few days.

The shutdown affects about 1,300 employees in the passenger-side air-bag operations at the plant, Cresante said. The 1,750 employees in TRW's driver-side air-bag operations are not affected.

There have been 44 explosions, fires or chemical spills at TRW's two Mesa plants since 1988. An explosion on Sept. 16, 1994, killed a construction worker and severely burned another man.

The $89,000 fine was imposed by the state Industrial Commission, which accused TRW of displaying willful disregard for safety.