DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An explosion and fire Monday at a chemical plant northeast of Des Moines sent plumes of thick smoke into the sky and forced officials to close two interstate freeways.
Sheriff's Chief Deputy Neil Schultz said one minor injury was reported and all the plant's employees were accounted for.
The explosion at the Barton Solvents plant was reported at 1:15 p.m., and nearly two hours later was burning out of control, said A.J. Mumm, coordinator for the Polk County Emergency Management Agency.
Flames and clouds of black smoke soared above the plant, and exploding barrels could be seen jetting into the sky. Mumm said 55-gallon barrels and 300-gallon tanks were exploding and that there were concerns about loaded rail cars and truck tanks on the site.
Police closed Interstates 80 and 235 near the fire.
''There is thick smoke and they're concerned drivers can't see,'' said Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation. ''There's also toxic fumes associated with chemicals and they're going to do some testing of the area.''
The smoke could be clearly seen from five miles away in downtown Des Moines.
Barton Solvents Inc. is a wholesale distributor of industrial chemicals, oils and surfactants under the Barsol trade name. The Des Moines-based company has distribution facilities in Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
An explosion at a Barton Solvents plant in Valley Center, Kan., in July prompted widespread evacuations in the community of about 6,000 people north of Wichita. Investigators have said it was caused by static electricity as workers filled a tank that contained a dry-cleaning product.