Sedgwick, Kansas – A fire and several explosions tore through the Green Energy Products facility in the town of Sedgwick around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday.
The plant is located in the 200 block of Industrial Drive.
Flames and thick black smoke were seen shooting several feet into the air.
“It was pretty scary. We are less than a football field away from the actual explosion,” explains nearby resident Emily Kester. “We just knew that it was bio diesel so it was oils and ethanol and stuff like that and alcohol. So we knew that if one of the tankers went it was going to be pretty bad. ”
It took crews nearly three hours to contain the fire.
Those who saw the fire described it as unreal.
“We heard the first fire truck go by. We all looked out, and everything started popping. Flames were through the roof when we came out,” said Jim Korwan, witness.
“It is pretty cool, but this one wasn’t a movie. It’s real life,” said Nick Schwab.
Real life danger that more than a dozen Green Energy Products employees dodged Tuesday morning.
Officials say it is a combination of more than 5,000 gallons of methanol, biodiesel, and vegetable oil sitting in tanks.
“We had up to 5,000 gallons of methanol in one of our holding tanks,” says Bernie Hoffman.
Hoffman is with WB Services, a majority owner of the bio diesel facility that went up in flames.
“The methanol never went up,” explains Hoffman. “It was safe inside a holding tank, outside the facility. When the fire started, it was small. But it got big quick.”
Hoffman says they put their “action plan” into play when the fire was discovered in the plant.
“The important thing is, everyone got out safe,” says Hoffman. “That’s all that really matters.”
Multiple fire crews with nearly 40 firefighters from places like McConnell Air Force Base and Frontier Chemical worked nonstop to keep tanks cool and the fire under control.
“We had crews go in and take out compress cylinders before the fire got to this magnitude. We were really worried because that was some acetylene which is real explosive, and we got those out of there,” said Gary Curmode, Sedgwick County Fire Chief.
Hoffman, the spokesman for the company, says the building is fairly new. It is only a year old, and production started back in March.
“The building is designed to contain liquid in the event of a leak so the building did its job and managed to keep the fire and the chemicals in the building are the biggest concern, and clearly the part that’s good is nobody was injured. The community wasn’t at risk,” said Hoffman.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Crews plan to monitor the plant throughout the night to be on the safe side.
“We will rebuild,” continues Hoffman. “This plant has some real, cutting edge technology inside. It’s a real blow. But everyone is safe.”