Friday, October 3, 2003

Cause of fatal silo blast could take days to find

By James Hannah
The Associated Press

NEW KNOXVILLE, Ohio - When wood shavings in a lumber mill's silo started smoldering again, firefighters used a technique that had worked before: Pour water from the top, shovel out the fuel from the bottom.

This time, the chips and sawdust exploded, blowing the top off the concrete silo and killing two New Bremen firefighters who had been manning the hoses. A third who also was atop the structure at Hoge Lumber Co. was hospitalized in good condition Thursday. Seven other firefighters and two plant owners were injured.

"For 15 to 20 seconds, there was complete disorientation," said New Knoxville Fire Chief Scott Schroer. "The concussion rolled a few guys on the ground and bruised a few of them up. A lot of these guys were lucky."

Crews were still pouring water into the silo and trying to empty it Thursday, Schroer said.

It could take days to find what caused the fire and explosion, said Dennis Cummings, an investigator with the state fire marshal's office.

Two silos store the scrap to fuel an onsite power plant that provides electricity for the mill and sells excess power to New Knoxville and St. Marys.

Until the blast, it was a routine fire, Schroer said. "There was an unknown element that we haven't figured out yet."

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