WUFT News

Explosion like one at Texas fertilizer plant not likely in Gainesville

By on April 18th, 2013

What started as a fire in a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, late Wednesday night soon escalated into a massive explosion that injured more than 160 people and killed at least five more.

The small town was devastated by the explosion that destroyed many homes and businesses. The question on many minds in the aftermath is: How likely is something like this to occur?

Jim Smith, manager of the Growers Fertilizer Corporation store in Newberry, said most people don’t have anything to worry about.

Though the cause of the Texas fire is still unknown, many are guessing the explosion was caused by tanks of anhydrous ammonia located nearby.

Anhydrous ammonia can be used as a fertilizer by being pumped as a gas directly into the ground. This chemical compound can cause various problems for those exposed. If inhaled and combined with water in the body, it can cause dehydration and severe burns.

Smith said his company does not use anhydrous ammonia, and neither do most fertilizer plants in Florida. Although their fertilizer does contain chemicals that can be hazardous, such as ammonium nitrate, he said there is no pressing danger. Consumers should feel safe about keeping fertilizer in their homes as long as it is properly stored in a dry environment, he said.

Gainesville Fire Rescue District Chief James Lovvorn said they prepare far in advance in case something like this were to ever occur. Even though both plants and rescue officials prepare extensively, there is always some risk working with these types of chemicals. Lovvorn said it is important to be ready for any situation.

Rebekah Geier wrote this story online.

Emily Burris reported for WUFT-TV.

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