Fire caused by explosion on chemical plant in Detroit

An explosion at a hazardous waste plant rocked, Romulus, suburban Detroit late Tuesday, sending fireballs and billowing smoke hundreds of feet in the air.

Authorities with the Romulus police department and the fire department said the explosion happened at a chemical plant shortly after 9 p.m. and that a one-mile radius around the facility has been evacuated, including a nearby Ford plant.

Some workers were inside the waste plant at the time of the blast, but all of them got out safely, said Kathleen Trent, spokeswoman for the city of Romulus. No injuries were reported.

Some witnesses described the explosion as big enough to send a mushroom cloud 500 feet into the air.

Video from the scene showed bright orange flames lighting up the nighttime sky, with occasional explosions sending the flames even higher. The fire engulfed much of the facility and spread across nearby grassy areas.

Authorities identified the plant as the EQ Resource Recovery, a hazardous waste treatment and storage facility. The plant's Web site says it "accepts bulk and containerized liquid and solid wastes," including 400 different types of waste such "as high boiling solvents, lean waters and non-dispersible solids."

The Environmental Protection Agency is en route to the city, and will monitor the surrounding air using aircraft and a mobile unit, Trent said, reports CNN.

According to Detroit Free Press, Romulus Mayor Alan R. Lambert said one tank exploded then set off explosions in others at the plant. He said air quality was one of the primary concerns and that the intensity of the fire and uncertainty about the chemicals kept firefighting crews from initially getting too close to the flames.

"What the plant does is takes hazardous materials and neutralize it so they're not hazardous anymore," Lambert said.

Firefighters were not able to determine a cause or what was burning because they were not able to get close enough due to the multiple explosions, said John Zech, Wayne's city manager.

Romulus Public Safety Director Chief Charles Kirby said that firefighters did not attack the fire because there were no lives in danger and no risk of the fire spreading.

"We've got a fire that's contained, and the fire chief thinks the best thing to do is let it burn," he said early Wednesday. "There's not a hazard to anyone else as far as life or property."

Andrew Crawford, 18, who lives within a few blocks of the explosion site, was one of about 300 Wayne residents who went to a shelter at the local high school.

"My backyard lit up orange," he said. "It was like a bomb went off."

"We looked up into the sky and it felt like the ground was shaking. It felt like something terrifying was going to happen and then all of a sudden we saw a huge fireball in the sky. There wasn't even words to describe how bad it looked," said neighbor Brian Oblilanksy, informs CBS.

Photo: AP

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