Aug. 10, 2005
ROMULUS, Mich. - A series of explosions rocked a Detroit-area
chemical plant, causing a fire that sent plumes of black
smoke into the air and prompted officials to urge hundreds
of residents to evacuate their homes.
Authorities said no injuries were reported, and no one
was inside the plant when the fire started late Tuesday.
About a dozen people were treated at a hospital in neighboring
Wayne for minor complaints, such as difficulty breathing,
said hospital spokesman Tom Worobec. All were expected to
be discharged by Wednesday morning, he said.
Romulus Public Safety Director Charles Kirby urged residents
within a mile-radius of the fire to evacuate their homes.
The area included about 1,000 homes in Wayne and another
150 in Romulus, but it was unclear how many people chose
to leave, officials said.
Series of explosions
Witnesses described a series of loud explosions at the E.Q.
Resource Recovery Inc. plant that shook the ground and shot
flames and smoke into the air. The company specializes in
treating, recycling and disposing of hazardous material.
Dan Gilbert, a plant spokesman, told WXYZ-TV that plant
employees were working outside in an area around the tanks
just before the explosion and were evacuated after an emergency
horn sounded. All were accounted for and none of them requested
medical treatment, he said.
Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert said the intensity of the fire
and uncertainty about the chemicals kept firefighting crews
from getting too close. The fire didn’t threaten any
homes and there was no risk of it spreading, officials said.
The fire caused eight metal tanks containing acetone, a
chemical used to clean machinery, to melt to half their
original size, Kirby said. Fire officials expected that
the chemical would burn out within eight hours, he said.
Hazardous materials officials had tested the air quality
and found no danger present, Kirby said. But workers from
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were on their way
to conduct more tests.
Romulus, home to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, is about
25 miles southwest of Detroit.