Posted on Thursday, August 8th, 2013
State officials are investigating a recent combustible dust flash fire that killed one employee and injured two others at Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies (AERT) in Springdale, Arkansas. Although the cause of the fire is being investigated, Assistant Fire Chief Kevin McDonald said that the fire initiated in a mixer during production. “The dust associated with the type of process that goes on here resulted in some type of a flash fire that encapsulated three of the employees,” McDonald said.
McDonald went on to say, “We’ve experienced fires before, not only in those mixers, but also the dust accumulations throughout the facility,” McDonald added. “Anytime we disturb it with our hose streams, more often than not, we do more harm than good…a lot of the areas where we can’t really access the product that’s in there, the dust accumulation just has to burn away. Every time we have a fire, AERT tries to learn from what we discover, what caused it, and take measures to prevent those kind of fires again.”
According to Dwayne Miller, of the Springdale Fire Marshal’s Office, this fire is one of 18 calls made to the factory since 2004. He said that most of the fires have occurred in the same area of the factory – an area where wood and plastic particles can build up within the air.
The last fire reported at the facility was in February 2012, when a dust explosion blew the roof off of a silo. No injuries were reported in the incident. According to AERT, since then, they have taken steps to help prevent incidents.
The fire department’s incident report confirms that this most recent flash fire exited from the top of two production mixers into the penthouse enclosure on the roof located directly above the mixers. According to witness statements, several workers were changing out slide gates above the mixers while the mixers were running. A worker noticed a fire inside the equipment through an open bolt hole, and applied water through the hole in an attempt to extinguish the fire. The application of water resulted in a flash fire, which exited the equipment enclosure into the confines of the penthouse, engulfing the workers.
Several familiar lessons can be learned from this incident:
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