Six people were injured, three critically, following an explosion and fire at the Kilgore Flares Co. manufacturing facility in Tennessee. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though officials have ruled out terrorism.
Kilgore Flares is located about 75 miles northeast of Memphis and supplies the military with red decoy flares to counter the threat of guided missiles. Chemring North America, the owner of Kilgore Flares, said the fire, which broke out around noon local time, started in one of the assembly facilities and it appeared isolated to one building. The chief financial officer of Kilgore Flares told the Associated Press that the incident was a “flash fire,” but would not say how that was different from an explosion.
According to the Jackson Sun, fire threw sparks and debris throughout the building, igniting the clothing of at least three workers. Those three critically injured workers were airlifted to Regional Medical Center at Memphis. Three others were taken to West Tennessee Health Care in Bolivar and listed in good condition.
“I just heard an explosion,” on Kilgore Flares employee told the Jackson Son, “and saw the fire, and everybody was running and yelling, ‘Get out! Get out!’ and we were all trying to make it to the exits.”
It was decided that the fire should be allowed to burn itself out because of the materials involved in the blaze. An investigation into the cause will not begin until the fire is extinguished.
As a result of the fire, a nearby elementary school was locked down. Several hundred Kilgore Flare employees were sent home.
According to the Associated Press, Kilgore Flares has been the site of several serious industrial accidents in the past which involved fatalities. In 1993, two employees died after pellets of the material used in making flares caught fire. In 1999, another employee suffered burns over 80 percent of his body and later died after material ignited and sparked multiple explosions. According to the Associated Press, records indicated that the building had not been cleaned of residual material that posed a fire hazard.
Finally, in 2001 one worker was killed following an explosion and fire. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the company paid $200,000 in penalties for workplace safety violations following that incident. The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration also fined the facility $380,000 for 16 violations following that incident.