Explosion Rocks Michigan Propane Company

Officials said flames spread from a building to a stack of propane tanks that exploded.


BEDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. --

An investigation is under way into what started the fire and explosion at a propane plant Tuesday afternoon.

The explosion occurred at the Reliance Propane & Fuel Oil plant in Bedford Township. Officials said flames spread from a building to a stack of propane tanks that exploded.

The fire continued to burn nearly three hours after it began. A second building was on fire and firefighters were concerned about the flames spreading to more tanks, including some 30,000-pound tanks.

"If those big tanks go, there will be a big explosion," said Bill Sulewski, battalion chief with the Toledo fire department.

All of the employees apparently got out safely, said Bedford Fire Capt. Bob Young.

Firefighters began pulling back from the plant before the tanks started exploding. They were staying a mile away from the plant, which is in a rural area near a few industrial businesses and a handful of homes.

"There's nobody in there trying to fight it right now," said David Kehres, a captain with the Erie Fire Department. "It'd be a losing battle. There's too many explosions."

He said the plant is a filling station for propane tanks, including those used in backyard grills.

"There's really no way of putting out a propane fire," Dave Harmon, spokesman for Reliance Propane.

He said firefighters decided to let the fire burn.

Firefighters went door-to-door evacuating residents and workers at the plants nearby.

One minor injury was reported.

Authorities remained at the site overnight, and an investigation was to continue Wednesday, county sheriff's Sgt. Greg Berman said Wednesday morning.

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