STATIC ELECTRICITY CAUSED ETHANOL FIRE AND SIOUX CENTER BLAST
By TOM BARTON
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
An explosion that caused the evacuation of about 2,000 residents and which left one man in critical condition Wednesday afternoon was caused by static electricity, according to officials with the State Fire Marshal's Office.
State fire inspectors in a press release issued Wednesday, said the driver of a semi tractor/trailer, whose name was not being released, was loading gasoline from a rail car to the tanker Tuesday afternoon at Farmer's Co-op Society in Sioux Center when vapors were ignited by static electricity.
The driver suffered severe burns and was taken to St. Elizabeth Hope Center in Lincoln, Neb., which has a burn ward.
The explosion and subsequent fire resulted in the evacuation of about 2,000 of Sioux Center's 6,600 residents. They were allowed to return later in the evening.
The Sioux Center Fire Department was called to the fire around 4:45 p.m. Firefighters from five local volunteer fire departments and a crew from the Sioux City Fire Department hazardous materials unit responded and had the blaze contained by 9 p.m. The gas leak was under control by 11 p.m.
Some residents said they could see the smoke from well beyond the half-mile evacuation radius.
The fire, which followed the explosion at the Farmers Co-op Society, melted the truck's aluminum tank.
Sioux Center Fire Chief David Van Holland said no buildings were damaged, but that the town could have been devastated.
"Yes, it could have," he said. "It was pretty large," he said.
Authorities evacuated a a half-mile area around the site, just west of the town's business district that included a mall and grocery store. The evacuation covered nearly one-third of the town's population.
Local emergency management officials in Polk County used the explosion Wednesday to highlight the need for hazardous materials training involving ethanol.
The State Fire Marshal's Office said of the three train lines at the farmer's co-op, there were 13 rail cars on the middle line, which were filled with some amount of ethanol, along with nine cars on the west track which contained amounts of gasoline.
"Growth of the ethanol industry is great for all Iowans, but the awareness and education of the emergency responder community needs to keep pace with that development," said A.J. Mumm, director of the Polk County Emergency Management Agency in release sent Wednesday afternoon.
Emergency management representatives from Boone, Story, Marshall, Dallas, Polk, Madison, Warren and Marion counties will meet Wednesday night for an ethanol emergency training workshop.
"Yesterday's incident in Northwest Iowa is an unfortunate reminder of the importance of our planning, training and disaster exercise efforts," said Lori Morissey, Story County Emergency Management coordinator.
-- The Associated Press Contributed to this report
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ATTACHMENT 4 of 4
The Evansville Courier & Press, Evansville, Indiana
Monday, July 30, 2007 http://www.courierpress.com/news/2007/jul/30/overturned-semi-leaking-ethanol
UPDATE: WIND IS WORKING FOR EMERGENCY
CREWS AT SCENE OF LEAKING TANKER
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A tanker truck containing more than 7,000 gallons of ethanol has
overturned on Old Henderson Road.
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A tanker truck loaded with 7,800 gallons of ethanol has overturned on Old Henderson Road and is leaking, creating a potentially hazardous situation.
"The material is very flammable, if it found an ignition source," said Lt. Dennis Daniel of the Vanderburgh Sheriff's Office, explaining why officials have requested a "safety zone" of one-half mile.
The wind direction is working to the advantage of rescue workers because fumes are headed toward corn fields and the river, rather than residential areas.
The accident occurred around 10:15 a.m. when a northbound semi on Old Henderson Road overturned. Daniel said the driver, Kyle Boyd, 25, of Princeton, Ind., was driving for Superior Fuels of Newton, Ill. when the tanker's wheels went off the edge of the road. That, he said, pulled the whole 18-wheeled rig over on its side.
The Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department is in charge of the scene, but the Evansville Fire Department is assisting with its HazMat team. The Indiana Department of Environmental Managemetn is also on the scene.
Bennett has been taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries, officals said.
According to emergency dispatches, the leaking chemical, believed to be ethanol, is leaking at a rate of 50 gallons per minute. Evaluation of environmental impact of the leak also is being called for from the scene.
Ethanol is flammable in both its liquid and vapor forms. It is an irritant to eyes and can cause a variety of health problems ranging in severity if ingested or inhaled.
Old Henderson Road is closed in both directions as crews continue to cleanup the site.