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Thousands of people are said to have been evacuated when North Carolina fertilizer plant caught fire

Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate a neighborhood in Winston-Salem, NC, on Tuesday as authorities warned of a potential explosion caused by a second day of blaze at a nearby fertilizer plant.

More than 600 tons of ammonium nitrate were at the Winston Weaver Company plant when the fire broke out Monday night, the city’s fire chief, Trey Mayo, said at a news conference Tuesday. He compared it to a fire at a fertilizer plant in Texas in 2013, in which 240 tons of the same product exploded, destroyed or severely damaged nearly 200 homes and killed 15 people.

“If that doesn’t convey the gravity of the situation and how serious people need to handle it,” he said, “I don’t know how else to put it.”

When asked by a reporter about the amount of chemicals “on fire” on Tuesday, Sheriff Mayo said, “all of them are.”

It is still unclear what caused the fire, which broke out at the plant on Monday night. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say on Tuesday that federal investigators assisted local fire departments.

Denise D. Adams, the Winston-Salem City Council member who represents the North Ward county that includes the plant, said in an interview Tuesday that about 500 tons of the chemical was in the building and the rest. on a wagon, with tons of finished fertilizer also on site.

She said she was watching television on Monday night when she heard the whistle. At about 7 p.m., she recalls, “there was a big, bang, boom, and immediately my mind thought when I heard it — the fertilizer plant.”

The fire started at a pier, she said. Many people passing by the factory called 911.

Firefighters who responded to Monday’s fire were subsequently fired because the building where ammonium nitrate is stored collapsed, limiting their ability to get enough water, Sheriff Mayo said. into the area, Sheriff Mayo said.

On Tuesday, the ministry posted a videotapes shows firefighters deployed in the vicinity, calling for about 6,500 residents live within a mile of the factory to evacuate.

“If it exploded, it would level a radius of a mile,” said one firefighter, speaking over the loudspeaker from inside his car on dark streets. “Please get out of the area.”

North Hills Elementary School, located in the evacuation zone, closed and have switched to distance learning. Wake Forest University canceled classes on Tuesday and encouraged faculty, staff and students living in the area to leave. Several university properties, including a student housing center, are located within the area.

Sheriff Mayo said crews, helicopters and drones were deployed in an effort to monitor and fight the fire. He added that authorities had taken a “calculated risk” to get firefighters out of the immediate danger zone.

“We will be able to make some more aggressive decisions after we monitor,” he said.

He said they were “not out of the woods yet” about the risk of an explosion. The risk would subside about 36 hours after a fire broke out, and about half of that time had passed as of Tuesday morning, he said.

An explosion of ammonium nitrate would occur when weight and heat combined, he said. Chemicals must be limited in order to explode, he added, and when there is a large amount, the amount above has the effect of limiting the amount below, the sheriff said.

No injuries or deaths have been reported. It is not clear how many employees work at the plant. The company was founded in Norfolk, Va., in 1929, and it opened Winston-Salem Factory 1940. Represent Winston Weaver Company could not be reached on Tuesday.

City Council member Ms. Adams said the factory underwent an inspection in December, and there were “no non-compliance issues” at the plant.

She said a shelter had been opened at a nearby fairground but the evacuation order, meant to last for 48 hours, was voluntary.

Ms. Adams said it was not immediately clear what caused the fire at the plant.

The fire caused one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas history – deadly factory explosion in West, Texas, in 2013 – was intentionally set up, Federal officials said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that regulates workplace safety and chemical storage, told fertilizer industry in a letter after the Texas disaster where a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate occurred 20 minutes after the first report of a fire.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/us/fertilizer-plant-fire-winston-salem-nc.html Thousands of people are said to have been evacuated when North Carolina fertilizer plant caught fire

Fry Electronics Team

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