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Explosion, fire cause evacuation

October 15, 2011
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Two workers were treated and released from the local hospital after a chemical explosion at a warehouse in Fairmont on Friday morning.

The incident occurred about 9:30 a.m. along East Ninth Street at a Fairmont Foods building rented by International Ag Labs. Keith Theobald, 43, and Allison Workman, 40, both of Fairmont escaped serious injury.

The building and nearby residents were evacuated as a precaution while firefighters fought ongoing fires and controlled the possibility of more explosions.

Article Photos

Fairmont firefighters battle a blaze at the site of an International Ag Labs warehouse in Fairmont. An explosion started the fire, which created worries about more explosions. The neighboring area was evacuated.

Minnesota Energy was called to shut down a gas line, and Fairmont Public Utilities cut power to the area. An emergency management team and chemical assessment team from Mankato were called in.

International Ag Labs was unwilling to comment on the situation, but a former employee described the facility as a location used to store and mix fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals.

Highly flammable on their own, the ingredients stored at the facility need only a spark - from equipment or other sources - to cause an explosion.

Fairmont fire chief Doug Borchardt identified the source of the fire as a mixer that sparked and ignited dust.

"It is amazing [the two employees] didn't get killed," he said.

Police oversaw a voluntary evacuation of homes and businesses in a several block area surrounding the site. The Salvation Army provided shelter to those displaced for the day. Residents were let back into the area around 5:30 p.m.

Borchardt said fighting the fire took most of the day.

Because the building was slated to be taken down in the near future and was a difficult place in which to fight a fire, firefighters focused on making sure the fire didn't spread to an area containing highly explosive chemicals or the nearby Fairmont Foods warehouse. They were successful on both counts.

Borchardt said the building is a loss, but he didn't know a dollar amount that could be associated with the damage.



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