Iowa Firefighters Watch Plant Fire Overnight

The fire continues to put out a little smoke, though nothing compared to the day before.


DES MOINES, Iowa --

Firefighters remained on the scene of a chemical plant fire at the Barton Solvents plant just north of Des Moines overnight Monday.

Tuesday morning, the fire continues to put out a little smoke, though nothing compared to the day before. Crews remained at the plant to make sure the fire was completely out.

Federal investigators are expected to arrive at the scene today to begin their investigation.

It took firefighters more than five hours from the start of the fire to get close enough to the huge flames to start putting them out. Most of the day only an unmanned fire hose was able to get close enough to fight the flames.

The plant is located at 1920 NE Broadway and 46th Ave. in Saylor Township.

Firefighters fought the fire from as far away as possible, saying they were in "defensive mode."

Crews watched as repeated explosions of flames roared into the air, pushing 55-gallon barrels of chemicals hundreds of feet into the sky. Heat from the fire could be felt a half mile away as the fireballs roared into the air.

Crews said train cars loaded with chemicals were moved away from the scene and several large tanks just north of the plant had been shut off so they no longer are a threat.

Fire crews from all across the Des Moines area were on the scene including Ankeny, Altoona, Des Moines, Pleasant Hill and others.

Des Moines hazmat crews were also there to advise crews on the chemicals produced at the plant and to monitor air quality.

Story Summary:

- Fire Starts 1:30pm- One Person Hurt- All Interstates Reopen- Smoke "Not A Risk"

Multiple fire crews used ladder trucks to pour large amounts of water onto the building on fire.

Crews first arrived at the Barton Solvents building around 1:30 p.m. How It Started... A plant employee tells KCCI he witnessed the first moments of the fire and believes he knows what caused it.

The employee said plant workers were unloading chemicals from train cars at the plant, when a "spark ignited a big ball of fire." He said that he and other employees ran away as fast as possible.

The employee said he believe the drums of chemicals were not properly grounded as they were being unloaded.

The employee said this is not the first time there has been a problem like this at the plant. He said he's not sure if he will return to work. The Investigation Officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said they're sending two investigators to the Barton plant.

CSB officials said they continue to investigate another plant fire involving Barton that happened in Kansas in July.

The CSB is an independent federal agency that oversees investigations involving the industrial chemical accidents. The agency doesn't hand out fines, but rather advises the industry and plant owners about safety changes and recommendations. Injuries: "One Person, Not Serious" One injury was reported, but officials said plant employees had time to escape before the fire got out of control.

All plant employees have been accounted for and have been safely evacuated from the scene.

The one worker who hurt had only superficial injuries and was treated at the scene.

A firefighter was also overcome by heat exhaustion and was taken to a hospital. He was treated and released. Smoke: "Not A Health Risk" The large cloud of smoke could be seen from more than 20 miles away....LIVE SKYCAM Air quality experts are on the scene and are continuing tests. They said tests so far are not showing any significant air quality problems.

The National Weather Service ran computer models to determine exactly where the smoke was drifting and where ash from the fire was falling across Iowa.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also granted a temporary 2-mile air space restriction around the plant. "Interstates Reopen" Des Moines police asked commuters to avoid the area, but by 3:51 p.m. Monday said that Interstate 80 had reopened. Interstate 235 also opened

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