Explosions & Fire in Propane Plant in Florida Injures 8

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A fire at a propane plant in Florida caused several propane containers to explode. Eight people were injured and the cause of the explosions is still unclear.

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Explosions & Fire in Propane Plant in Florida Injures 8

  1. 1. Explosions & Fire in Propane Plant in Florida Injures 8 Eight workers at the Blue Rhino propane plant in Tavares, Florida (northwest of Orlando) were injured Monday night when a series of explosions and fire sent workers fleeing from the scene. Four workers are currently in critical condition. The cause is unknown; human error and malfunctioning equipment have been suggested.Workers at the plant clean and refill propane tanks used in grilling. There are 53,000 propane containers (each holding 20 gallons) on site; thousands of containers now litter the plant’s parking lot after the explosions. Workers reported that they were almost ready to leave work when the explosions started. Gene Williams says he heard two explosions outside. Williams then saw a huge fireball near the plant’s loading dock (where containers are stored on pallets). A forklift driver entered the building. His face and legs were covered in burns and his skin was falling off his hands. Williams also saw someone fleeing the fire hit by a car on the road. Explosions could be heard as far as 10 miles away from the plant. Confused residents thought they were being bombed. Firefighters set up an evacuation zone in the half-mile radius surrounding the plant. 50 households were evacuated and allowed to reenter after four hours. One resident, Marni Whitehead, said she and her neighbors could see and hear the explosions outside. Whitehead said, “We knew right away it was the plant, the propane plant. After that, it was just sort of panic. And it was just boom after boom after boom.” Others said their houses were shaking during the explosions. Following the explosions, 15 employees were originally missing out of the 24 that were on site at the time. Since then, they have been discovered. Many of them ran away from the scene and others took themselves to hospitals. In addition to the 20 gallon propane containers, the plant houses three tanks holding 33,000 gallons of propane each. Chris Croughwell, Lake County Battalion Chief, explained that four trucks close to the large tanks caught fire. Croughwell said, “it would have wiped us out” if the large tanks had exploded. Local Mayor Robert Wolfe said, “We’re lucky those tanks didn’t explode.” It’s lucky the tanks didn’t explode because the emergency water hoses for the tanks would not have gone off without being manually activated. Wolfe plans to address this issue in the future. The explosions and fire were so intense that firefighters had to wait before being able to enter the plant. They began pouring water into the facility and the fire was expelled by two in the morning; the fire had lasted for three hours. Five of the injured employees approached firefighters for help with skin falling off of their bodies. Scott Brockelmeyer, spokesperson for Blue Rhino’s parent company Ferrellgas, said, “It’s as sobering a situation as you can possibly imagine. We have folks who are injured, and we’ve got Blue Rhino and Ferrellgas employees across the country who are keeping them in their prayers and sending good vibes their way.”
  2. 2. Investigations are currently being conducted by the office of the Florida State Marshal and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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