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Fire, Propane Explosion Damage Washington Facility

The fire damaged five buildings at a company that makes plastic tarps to cover haystacks.

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A dramatic fire and explosion that sent a propane tank flying 1,000 feet burned five buildings Friday at a company that makes plastic tarps to cover haystacks and set fire to 11,000 tons of hay in central Washington state.

The blaze closed Interstate 90, the state's main east-to-west freeway, in both directions for about two hours.

No one was injured.

The fire that engulfed the five buildings was out by late Friday afternoon, but the nearby haystacks will burn for days, Grant County sheriff's spokesman Kyle Foreman said. The haystack fires will be monitored to make sure they don't spread, he said.

The inferno that sent up a towering mushroom cloud of flames and smoke was started accidentally by sparks generated as workers used a saw to cut metal, county Deputy Fire Marshal Nathan Poplawski said.

Calls and emails seeking comment from Inland Tarp & Liner were not immediately returned. The company has warehouses across the country.

The flames were driven by 20 mph winds, combustible materials at the tarp company and multiple propane tanks that periodically vented.

More than an hour after the fire started, a large propane tank exploded and "flew 1,000 feet down range and ignited a haystack," Foreman said. The wind then pushed the flames into other nearby haystacks.

Kim Ragan said he drove out to the area Friday morning to make sure his friend's house was not burning, and he saw a massive explosion the size of a football field that sent a plume of black smoke into the sky.

About 75 firefighters and law enforcement officers responded, Foreman said. "We're very grateful nobody was hurt," he said.

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