CONNERSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A fire at an east-central Indiana
paint factory sparked several fiery explosions Thursday, seriously
injuring one worker and prompting the evacuation of hundreds of
nearby residents.
At least four other workers were injured when explosions fueled
by containers of paint and solvents shook the Connersville Paint
Inc. factory about 2 p.m., producing dense plumes of black smoke.
"It wasn't fully engulfed until crews started to arrive and
that's when it really exploded. There were 55-gallon drums flying
through the air," said Capt. Ryan Richardson of the Connersville
Police Department.
One worker who was seriously burned inside the plant was
airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, Richardson
said. That person's name and condition was not immediately
available.
Richardson said late Thursday that at least four other workers
suffered lesser injuries. He did not know the precise number of
workers injured at the factory about 50 miles southeast of
Indianapolis.
As officers arrived at the scene, with fiery plumes rising
nearby, they began evacuating several hundred people by going door
to door at homes around the plant in an industrial area on
Connersville's south side.
Richardson said those people were allowed to return to their
homes after 7 p.m., once most of the flames had been extinguished.
A spokeswoman for the Indiana State Police post in Connersville
told The Indianapolis Star that a worker was mixing paint in the
factory when an explosion about 2 p.m. sparked a large fire.
Richardson said he was not sure how the fire began. By the time
firefighters brought it under control about three hours later, he
said the factory had been heavily damaged.
Cindy Hartman, a secretary at the Indiana State Police post in
Connersville, said the sky was full of black smoke from the plant
about six blocks away. "It stinks and is kind of nasty," she
said.
Richardson said state health officials had been dispatched to
scene to monitor the air quality in the area.
By 9 p.m., seven hours after the first explosion, firefighters
were still working to combat smoldering areas inside the gutted
factory.
"The fire is contained, but it's not extinguished. There are
some hot spots that are still going," he said.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has a crew at
the scene checking to see if any runoff from the plant had reached
the nearby Whitewater River.
"It's fairly close to the river, so they're checking to make
sure that the river is OK," Richardson said.
Residents evacuated from the area around the factory were taken
to Connersville High School's auditorium and a Salvation Army
facility before they were allowed to return home.
According to the Web site of Connersville Paint's parent
company, C.P. Inc., the company produces a variety of water- and
solvent-based paints and coatings for products including cars,
metal furniture and appliances. It also conducts research as well
as providing technical support. The company employs about 28 people
and was founded in 1946.
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On the Net:
Connersville Paint: http://www.cpincpaints.com/

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