Archive for Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Plant fire darkens Iowa skies

October 30, 2007


— An explosion and fire Monday at a chemical distribution facility northeast of Des Moines sent plumes of thick smoke into the sky and burned out of control for several hours after it ignited.

Flames and clouds of black smoke soared above the Barton Solvents facility, and exploding barrels could be seen jetting into the sky. Fire departments from throughout the Des Moines area responded to the fire, which firefighters were expected to extinguish by late Monday night.

The explosion occurred about 1:15 p.m. when a substance in a warehouse was being moved into a portable storage tank, said Barton President David Casten. He said he didn't know what substance was being moved or how it ignited.

One worker suffered slight burns and was treated at the scene, and a firefighter was taken to a hospital with heat exhaustion, officials said.

Firefighters were battling a second blaze at a nearby recycling center that apparently started when a flaming barrel flew from the Barton plant and landed on a wood pile at the center, said Neil Shultz, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. That fire was extinguished.

Police closed Interstates 80 and 235 near the fire for more than two hours before opening them around 4 p.m., after tests showed the air quality was acceptable, officials said.

Barton Solvents Inc. is a wholesale distributor of industrial chemicals, oils and surfactants under the Barsol trade name. Casten said it wasn't clear what was burning but that a variety of substances were stored at the site, including hydrocarbons and petroleum-based solvents.

An explosion at a Barton Solvents plant in Valley Center, Kan., in July prompted widespread evacuations in the community of about 6,000 people north of Wichita. Investigators have said it was caused by static electricity as workers filled a tank that contained a dry-cleaning product.


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