SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - An explosion has demolished a building
Thursday at a United Technologies Corp. facility where solid rocket
motors are made.
The cause of the explosion was not clear.
"The three story building was completely destroyed," said
Annie Vandergoot, a dispatcher with the California Department of
Forestry and Fire Protection in Morgan Hill. "Only the metal
skeleton was left, in the middle of a large debris field."
San Jose fire fighters were called to the scene in the rural
foothills of South San Jose at 5:52 p.m. The explosion also set off
a 20-acre grass fire which was controlled and extinguished by 8:30
p.m.
A hazardous materials team was also sent to the site, but fire
officials rescinded earlier dispatcher reports that ammonium
chloride was released in the air.
United Technologies has its own on-site fire department, but the
CDF and the fire departments in Santa Clara County and San Jose
also worked to control the fire.
The smoke from the burning grass was seen for miles, but no
injuries were reported.
Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies is an aerospace and
manufacturing conglomerate. Solid rocket motors for missiles,
shuttles and communications satellites are made and tested at the
San Jose facility, which is run by Pratt and Whitney Space
Propulsion, a United Technologies unit.
Patrick Louden, a Pratt and Whitney spokesman, said the nearest
employee was about a half mile away when the explosion occurred. It
originated from a 600-pound container in which chemicals are mixed
to make the rocket propulsion, he said.
"We're still investigating the cause at this time," Louden
said.
About 700 employees work in multiple shifts at the facility,
which has been in operation since the 1960s. Louden did not know
how many employees were on site at the time of the explosion, but
said it would have been a reduced number because the day shift had
ended.
The state's Department of Toxic Substances Control inspects the
facility approximately once every year, according to the California
Environmental Protection Agency. The last inspection was completed
in April 2002, leading to a citation for minor violations,
according to the EPA's Web site.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)