Florida Propane Explosions: Many Employees Injured
A series of multiple explosions rocked the Blue Rhino Propane Plant in Lake City, a town in central Florida. There were 24 full-time and part-time employees at the plant at the time of the explosion. According to recent reports, eight workers were injured, four of whom suffered critical injuries. One of those injured during the aftermath was not a worker, but was a man who was struck by a car while trying to flee the area. Health officials reported several workers were seeking medical attention due to severe burns with burned skin hanging from their faces, torsos, and arms.
In case the name sounds familiar, Blue Rhino propane tanks are sold throughout the United States. Many Americans use these compact propane tanks for their backyard grills.
It appears the fire started while workers were working on the assembly line. They were re-filling propane tanks and re-painting tanks at the time. A former plant supervisor confirmed that Blue Rhino’s employees can fill 5,000 propane tanks at this facility during any normal night shift.
The explosions were so enormous, they could be heard from over 10 miles away. Some witnesses described the fire as a 20-foot by 20-foot ball of fire in the sky. The fire department set up a parameter and evacuation zone one mile around the plant, which was later reduced to half a mile around the plant. Nearby residents thought their neighborhood was under attack and being bombed,
According to investigators, this particular plant held in excess of 53,000 20-pound tanks. These tanks are the same size used for most Americans’ backyard grills. There were also three 90,000-gallon bulk propane tanks located on site, but fire officials have confirmed that these tanks did not ignite or explode.
Blue Rhino is a subsidiary of Ferrellgas, a Kansas-based, national propane provider who operates throughout the United States. Ferellgas was fined in November of 2011 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety violations involving components used at their propane plant. Fire officials, so far, have ruled out fowl play or sabotage, but their investigations continue.