A fire at a North Carolina fertilizer plant packed with 600 tons of ammonium nitrate forced at least 6,000 residents to evacuate due to fears of a possible explosion.
Authorities scrambled to evacuate nearly 2,500 homes within a one-mile radius as the fire at the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant continued to blaze on Feb. 1.
The fire first broke out on Jan. 31 evening. Firefighters battled the blaze for two hours before retreating when flames spread to a rail car containing ammonium nitrate.
Mayo also said that firefighters reported hearing several “mini explosions” before they had to pull back.
According to Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo, the fire had been “relatively static” overnight, but “we’ve got about a 36-hour window where that explosion potential exists.”
Mayo told reporters that “all of [the ammonium nitrate] is in the line of fire.”
According to fire officials, water was being routed to a section of the plant where the ammonium nitrate is being stored to keep it under 400 degrees, which they believe will prevent explosions.
The cause of the fire remains unclear.
It is also unclear if any resident had refused to leave their homes after first responders had gone door-to-door.
Winston-Salem Fire Department Battalion Chief Patrick Grubbs said that he did not have a number of refusals.
Authorities also evacuated about 220 inmates from the Forsyth Correctional Center to the minimum-security Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, according to a statement from the North Carolina prison system.
The fire also forced Wake Forest University to cancel classes on Feb. 1
No injuries or deaths were reported as of Feb. 1 morning.
According to officials, the plant passed a routine inspection in December.
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