Two Injured in West Virginia Plant Explosion - News - @ JEMS.com


Two Injured in West Virginia Plant Explosion

Businesses near Poca plant site evacuated during fire

 

 
 
 

PAM RAMSEY, Associated Press | | Tuesday, May 14, 2013


POCA, W.Va. (AP) — Two workers were injured Monday when highly flammable gas used in welding exploded at a West Virginia industrial site, officials said.

Fire crews were sent at about 3:20 p.m. to Airgas, a distributor of specialty gases in Poca, outside of Charleston. Putnam County emergency management director Frank Chapman said the explosion involved about 50 tanks of acetylene that were at Airgas waiting to be refilled. What caused the tanks to explode wasn't known.

Chad Jones, a firefighter with the Bancroft Volunteer Fire Department, said four cylinders continued to burn Monday evening and that crews were letting them "burn out." They were dousing other tanks with water to keep them from exploding, said Jones, whose station was one of several to respond to the scene.

The tanks were being stored in a bay behind the facility. Jones said after the first tank exploded, "it was like a chain reaction," with fireballs shooting 100 to 150 feet in the air. A nearby business was evacuated, and windows were shattered in the back of the Airgas plant, Jones said.

Doug Barker, chief financial officer at nearby Clark Truck Parts, told The Associated Press over the phone that "we felt our building shake like it's never come close to shaking before from a storm or anything. It was enough to make us run."

Barker said he and another company official bolted from their offices, and he ran to the road and saw dark smoke in the air. Soon afterward, they heard several smaller explosions and saw fire, he said. Barker also saw three or four ambulances speed by and heard a lot of sirens.

Clark Truck Parts is about half-mile from Airgas, Barker said. He said there are some homes between the two industrial sites.

Dave Castro, manager of the TransWood trucking company about a quarter-mile from Airgas, said he also felt his building shake.

"It felt like a truck ran into the building," he said.

He said he drove toward Airgas to check on his wife, who works at another company nearby, and could see the back of the plant on fire. He said the burning area was about the size of a house, and every 15 seconds or so a black ball of smoke would rise from a tank or drum "and explode like a firework."

Acetylene is used in welding canisters. Airgas calls itself the largest U.S. supplier of industrial, medical and special gases. The company also lists on its website propane, often used in backyard grills; hydrogen, helium; and nitrous oxide, or the "laughing gas" used during some dental procedures.

Company spokesman Doug Sherman said the explosions occurred in a concrete-enclosed storage area located outside of the main plant. He said the injuries were not life-threatening, and the fire had been extinguished.

Jones said the company was sending a hazmat crew from Kentucky.

"It's a hazardous job they do every day," Jones said. "Something went wrong today."

A U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration crew was at the scene.

Chapman said the explosion involved residue of the gas left in the tanks. He said the blast would have been much worse if the tanks were filled. He said both workers suffered second and third-degree burns.

Chapman said the cause of the explosion was being investigated and that the blasts and fire were the first problem he knows to be reported at Airgas.

The injured workers were taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital for treatment. A hospital official did not know their conditions.

Airgas Inc. is based in Radnor, Pa., and has more than 15,000 employees at 1,110 locations including retail stores, gas fill plants and distribution centers, according to Hoover's database on companies. It is the largest distributor of packaged gases in the US, with a 25 percent market share and with sales of nearly $5 billion in fiscal 2012.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, explosion

 
What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Truck Strikes Pedestrians in Scotland

Six killed in downtown Glasgow.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >