New Explosion Hampers Efforts To Stop Kansas City Blaze

Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 3:34 pm
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Another explosion on Thursday slowed firefighters' progress as they tried to put out a day-old fire that engulfed a chemical distribution plant.

The last of the hot spots were being doused Thursday morning when another explosion came from inside the Chemcentral Corp. plant, Battalion Chief Joe Vitale said.

A number of 55-gallon drums had ignited at the plant on Wednesday, sending fireballs into air and black smoke over the downtown skyline. Two plant workers suffered minor injuries.

People within a one-mile radius of the site were evacuated after the explosions Wednesday, and firefighters were finally able to approach the site later that night and use flame-suppressing foam.

Vitale said Thursday's explosion did not come from the three 30,000-gallon rail tank cars that were parked nearby. Firefighters were concerned the tank cars, which held flammable materials, would ignite. At one point Wednesday, witnesses said the cars appeared to glow red from the heat, but their pressure relief valves activated to let fumes escape.

Fire Chief Richard Dyer said firefighters hope to have the blaze extinguished sometime Thursday. ``We hate to give a time frame because it seems like it always seems to take longer than we anticipate,'' he said.

Dan Brennan, an attorney for Bedford Park, Ill.-based Chemcentral, said it was not immediately clear what caused the explosions.

Small pockets of fire and the threat of additional explosions have kept investigators from examining the site and determining the cause of the initial explosions.

Despite the smoke plume's ominous appearance, officials said tests had found no threat to human health.

Residents were cautioned against touching any debris or what appeared to be a sticky substance deposited by the cloud as it streamed southwestward, but Dyer said the material was not highly toxic.