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Chemical plant fire kills four
At least 14 people are hurt in the blaze, which proves "incredibly dangerous" for firefighters.
Published December 20, 2007
JACKSONVILLE - An explosion and fire at a chemical plant killed four people Wednesday and injured at least 14, fire officials said.
It was not clear what caused the explosion at the T2 Laboratories Inc. plant, which makes chemical solvents and fuel additives, said Tom Francis, a fire rescue spokesman.
The chemicals at the plant made the environment "incredibly dangerous for the first responders," Francis said. "Explosions were generating all kinds of side brush fires and other kinds of blazes."
Fire officials initially ordered a precautionary evacuation of the surrounding area. But the order was rescinded just after 4 p.m. when firefighters determined that the level of toxicity in the air was no greater than an average house fire, Francis said.
Hospitals reported one patient in critical condition, three fair, seven good and one had been released. Conditions for the rest were unknown, or it wasn't clear where they were being treated.
An emergency number listed on the company's Web site was answered by a woman who said she was an owner's friend. She said the only details she had were from media reports and then hung up.
A board member and a six-person investigation team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board was expected to arrive at the site this morning to begin an investigation.
Witnesses told the Florida Times-Union that debris from the afternoon explosion flew several stories into the air.
Chris Parrish, 30, was working two warehouses down when he heard a hiss and then an explosion at about 1:30 p.m.
"In all seriousness, the explosion was four stories high," he told the newspaper.
Part of the ceiling was sheared off and damage included flying trees and debris, according to another witness who works across from the warehouse.
Derek Pratt, 24, was flying a remote control airplane field at a field about a mile away when he heard a series of thudding explosions. "Those shock waves came straight through these hills," he said. "It was like a great ball of fire in the air."
John Swearingen said he works at Masthead Hose Company, which is down the street from where the explosion occurred. He said the building he was in suffered severe damage.
"It blew our roof off and blew the safety doors right off the hinges," he said. "It picked one guy up and threw him into a rack, but he did not get hurt."