Explosion At Kansas Solvents Plant Starts Fire

Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 11:00 am
By: News On 6

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) _ Homes and business were ordered evacuated after an explosion Tuesday morning started a fire at a Wichita-area solvents plant, authorities said.

The first blast occurred about 9:15 a.m. at Barton Solvents in downtown Valley Center, a town of about 5,000 residents. No injuries were reported, said David Casten, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Barton Solvents.

Black smoke billowed from storage tanks, flames shot more than 100 feet into the air, and secondary explosions could also be heard after fire crews from across the area battled the flames. Firefighters concentrated on defending nearby buildings, and people in a one-mile radius of the plant were ordered evacuated.

The storage tanks contained industrial chemicals, including hydrocarbons, alcohol and ketones, used in the paint and coatings industry. Casten said the plant, about 10 miles north of Wichita, employs about two dozen people and about 12 were working at the time of the blast.

The cause of the explosion wasn't known, he said.

Joe Blubaugh, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the agency was monitoring the fire.