TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A gas distributor was rocked by explosions
and fire Monday that sent ruptured steel canisters and other debris
flying hundreds of feet.
Several nearby houses caught fire but there were no reports of
injuries, and Airgas Mid South said it had accounted for all 75
employees who may have been working at the plant at the time.
The fire apparently started in a storage facility for industrial
gases, said company president Mike Duvall.
"We don't know how or why at this point," hsaid.
The facility stores high-pressure steel cylinders containing
acetylene, propane, oxygen, argon, nitrogen and carbon dioxide,
Duvall said.
The canisters exploded in a violent cacophony for more than two
hours, sending projectiles as high as 300 feet and up to a
half-mile away. After some 100 explosions, Fire Capt. Hubert Rouse
said his crews managed to get close enough to control the fire.
For a time, roiling black clouds of smoke shut down traffic on
Interstate 244.
Authorities evacuated a three-quarter-mile radius.
"We're not exactly sure what's burning," Rouse said. "We
treat all smoke as toxic. The evacuation is about the debris and
smoke."
An Airgas facility in SacramentoCalif., caught fire last
month, also producing dark smoke that prompted evacuation of nearby
homes.
Airgas Mid South is headquartered iTulsa and has locations in
seven other states in the region. Parent company Airgas Inc. is in
Radnor, Pa.

APTV 08-18-03 2303EDT