Massive fire at N.Carolina fertilizer plant causes area evacuation | Inquirer
 
 
 
 
 
 

Massive fire at N.Carolina fertilizer plant causes area evacuation

/ 08:00 AM February 01, 2022

About 6,500 people have been told to evacuate their homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina due to a fire at a fertilizer plant storing over 300 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate, city officials said on Tuesday.

The blaze at the Weaver Fertilizer Plant on North Cherry Street started Monday evening. Residents within one mile of the plant were urged to evacuate and stay away from their homes for up to 48 hours.

“We abandoned the fire fighting operation because there’s a large volume of ammonium nitrate on site,” Winston-Salem fire chief Trey Mayo said.

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Massive fire at N.Carolina fertilizer plant caused area evacuation

A firefighter walks past a fire engine as Weaver Fertilizer Plant burns on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S., January 31, 2022, in this screen grab taken from a video recorded on January 31, 2022. City of Winston-Salem via Facebook/Handout via REUTERS

A large quantity of ammonium nitrate exposed to intense heat can trigger an explosion.

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In 2020, a massive blast at a warehouse used to store ammonium nitrate in Beirut, Lebanon killed at least 100 people and injured nearly 4,000, while an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant killed 15 and injured about 200 in 2013.

Mayo said the North Carolina facility had somewhere between 300 and 600 tons of the chemical. “To put that in perspective, in 2013 .. (the Texas) fire and explosion involved around 240 tons of ammonium nitrate.”

Massive fire at N.Carolina fertilizer plant caused area evacuation

Firefighters battle a fire of burning Weaver Fertilizer Plant on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S., January 31, 2022, in this screen grab taken from a video recorded on January 31, 2022. City of Winston-Salem via Facebook/Handout via REUTERS

He said the building had collapsed and access to the product that is in the building was restricted.

“We could not flow enough volume of water into the area where that ammonium nitrate is stored to be reasonably certain that we could keep it cool enough to prevent a detonation.”

No injuries have been reported so far and the cause of fire was not known, local media report.

(This story corrects paragraph 5 to say 15 were killed in an explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 and not 14)

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, Editing by Louise Heavens and Catherine Evans)

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TAGS: fire, fire safety, North Carolina
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