Archive for Thursday, July 11, 1996

CREWS LEVEL AMMUNITION PLANT TO ASHES ONE BUILDING ATTIME

July 11, 1996

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The first of several buildings scheduled to be burned at the Sunflower Army Ammunition plant was set ablaze Wednesday.

A fire and explosion Wednesday morning at the Sunflower Army Ammunition plant near DeSoto was part of a controlled burning of buildings, an official with the facility said.

Gayla Frazier, manager of Alliant Techsystems Inc., said officials conducted a "pilot burn" Wednesday of one building, and part of another.

The buildings are two of about 413 structures that are scheduled for demolition over the next two years, she said.

The structures have been deemed either structurally unsafe or contaminated with explosives, she said.

About 7:50 a.m., officials ignited fuel and hay near the buildings. About 15 minutes later, an explosion occurred.

Frazier said the explosion was caused by volatile materials stored inside a pipe in a 6,800-square-foot building.

There were no injuries.

"I was watching it from 1,250 feet away on the roof of a building and (the explosion) seemed extremely loud to me," she said.

Officials from Alliant Techsystems Inc., the company contracted to develop the area for commercial use, informed the city of DeSoto and area fire departments that they would be conducting the controlled burn, she said.

"We forgot to give (area news media) a call so we could let the public know we were doing this," she said.

During World War II and the Korean War, the Army made nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin at the facility. Those substances are used as propellants in explosives.

Many of the buildings at the plant were built in the 1940s and still contain those materials.

The safest way to dispose of them is by burning, Frazier said.

The burns have been approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, she said.

The buildings scheduled to be demolished include structures ranging from well and pump houses to buildings four times the size of the one burned Wednesday.

They are being cleared to make the area more conducive for commercial development, she said.

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