UPDATE: Company announces it will rebuild, test air quality after explosion
THOMAS, Okla. – An explosion at a chemical plant in Western Oklahoma forced a number of evacuations and shut down a state highway Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.
The scene was just north of Thomas, in Custer County.
State Highway 47 was shut down while emergency crews handled the volatile situation.
Officials say about a dozen people had to be evacuated.
Those people were allowed back into their homes around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
JJ Maddox, who was evacuated, said, “It was kind of a nervous feeling having to leave your home.”
Maddox and his family were unsure of what they would return to, but were grateful their home was okay as the fire was burning just across the street.
Dana Reinschmiedt, a Thomas resident, said, “It’s sad. It just breaks my heart.”
Fire crews say it was already a large fire when they arrived, with flames shooting 60 to 80 feet in the air.
Larry Schrock, with the Thomas Fire Department, said, “The trucks were on fire, most of the building [was on fire].”
Inside the building were potentially toxic chemicals.
Fire officials have done what they can to contain the chemicals, making sure they don’t flow out of the area.
Reinschmiedt said, “This is a lot of our town’s jobs.”
The building was the corporate headquarters for Danlin Industries, a company that manufacturers chemicals for the oil and gas industry.
Mike Brown, with Danlin Industries, said, “In life, you’re given hurdles and this is one of those we’re going to go over.”
The company plans to start over in the town of Thomas.
They are already making plans for where the 75 employees who worked in the building will work until the rebuilding process is complete.
Brown said, “We’ve always been a company that has done the right thing and we’re going to take care of our employees.”
Along with monitoring the damage update, officials are continuing to monitor the air quality.
Company leaders say they will make evacuations if necessary.
Currently, they say the air is safe.
If the wind switches directions, they will have to reevaluate.
The state fire marshal is now helping in the investigation into how the fire started.
Fortunately, no one was working in the building at the time.
There were also no injuries reported.