Gases and Dust Caused Ohio Silo Blast That Claimed Two Firefighters

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A silo explosion that killed two people at a lumber company last month was caused when air rushed into a cavity of burning wood chips, igniting gases and dust, state fire officials said Wednesday.

The Oct. 1 fire and explosion at the Hoge Lumber Co. in the western Ohio village of New Knoxville was accidental, said investigator Dennis Cummings.

The explosion blew the top off the burning silo, sending chunks of the 75-foot-high concrete structure flying into a cemetery 100 yards away.

Kenneth Jutte, 44, and John Garman, 42, both volunteers with the New Bremen Fire Department, were killed. One firefighter and eight people on the ground were injured.

Cummings said the fire likely started from heat generated from the friction of a belt on a pulley being used to remove wood chips from the silo.

The fire smoldered for several hours and burned a cavity in the center of the chip-filled silo, growing bigger and bigger. When the top of the wood chips collapsed into the cavity, oxygen and gases at the top of the silo rushed into the fire, Cummings said.

The gases and wood dust created by the collapse ignited and produced an explosion that blew off the top of the silo, he said.

New Knoxville is about 50 miles north of Dayton.