According to authorities in the area, the Danlin Industries chemical plant in Thomas, Oklahoma caught fire last week, engulfing the entire plant and heating a number of pressurized containers to the point that they caused several explosions. Initial reports by the Thomas Fire Department from the scene had said the explosions had caused the fire, but they were corrected soon after by Custer County emergency management director Mike Galloway.
According to fire officials, the plant complex caught fire at about 10 p.m. on Sept. 18. The complex consists of a warehouse, a laboratory and an office. It is believed that when the fire engulfed the warehouse, the heat caused the explosions.
Fortunately, all of the workers at the plant had gone home for the day, so no one was present when the complex caught fire. Authorities were forced to evacuate about a dozen residents from nearby homes as a precaution, however, and firefighters had to fight the fire from a distance because they had no idea how many pressurized chemical tanks were stored at the facility. Their main focus was on preventing the fire from spreading. The fire eventually burned itself out by about 8 a.m.
There are many similarities between this incident and the incident in West, Texas back on April 17. The 13-acre plant supplies chemicals to the oil industry, it employs about 80 people, and the population of Thomas is quite small, totaling about 1,200. Thankfully, in this case, workers had all gone home before the fire and explosions occurred, and the chemical that burned was mostly methanol, which burns off, like alcohol. No one was reported injured, including the 30 firefighters and other emergency personnel. But the plant is completely destroyed.
A thorough investigation of the fire and explosions will be conducted and the causes of the fire will be found. But how many chemical plants have to catch fire and explode before state and federal agencies start taking this problem seriously? What caused this fire? What if it had broken out while workers were present? Were state agencies aware of the chemicals being stored on the property, and were precautions taken to protect residents nearby, or was everyone just lucky this time.
Federal, State and local regulators, as well as plant owners must focus on safety and security, and develop minimum standards that apply to all chemical plants. Until that happens, these fires and explosions will continue to occur, and many of them won’t have the fortunate outcome of this incident. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of a fire or explosion at a chemical plant, contact the Chemical Safety Attorneys at Hill Law Firm today.