Ammonia explosion risk at California food plant fire prompts evacuations

‘Fire progressed to the point that it poses a significant risk for a potential explosion of ammonia that is located in the plant,’ deputy fire chief says

Gustaf Kilander
Thursday 14 April 2022 18:30
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Massive Salinas fire is too dangerous to fight

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A fire at a food processing plant in Salinas, California has led to evacuations and schools being closed.

The fire began at around 7.15pm on Wednesday at the 225,000 square-foot (20,903 square metres) Taylor Farms Processing Facility.

The fire prompted authorities to evacuate surrounding areas and as of Thursday morning, four schools have been closed.

Just after 5.30am, officials announced the closure of Lincoln Elementary, Monterey Park Elementary, Sherwood Elementary, and Los Padres Elementary, according to Bay City News.

The closures follow a shelter-in-place order issued earlier on Thursday affecting around 35,000 people at 7,000 addresses. The area under evacuation orders includes 548 addresses and around 2,700 people.

At 2.19am, city officials said in a statement that the order to evacuate was issued because of the possibility of an explosion and hazardous plume of ammonia that can change which areas are affected depending on the direction the wind is blowing.

Almost 100 firefighters from 22 units in Monterey County have been called in.

Deputy Fire Chief and Incident Commander Sam Klemek said that “the fire progressed to the point that it poses a significant risk for a potential explosion of ammonia that is located in the plant”.

“For that reason, we pulled back our units to a safe area and have begun evacuation notices for the immediate area around the plant,” he added.

Authorities have asked area residents to stay inside and keep pets indoors, close all windows, and shut down heating, ventilation, and fans, according to Bay City News.

Salinas Fire Chief Michele Vaughn said on Wednesday night that there are indications that the fire began when a welding project initiated the blaze in a wall that then spread to the facility’s attic.

The plant was closed for the season and no one was inside the building. The facility was set to reopen on Monday.

Authorities have said that the Environmental Protection Agency has been contacted and that response teams are en route, according to KSBW.

Salinas is located south of San Jose.

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