State Watch

North Carolina fertilizer plant fire forces thousands to evacuate

AP Photo/Skip Foreman
A police car blocks access to a road leading to a fertilizer plant in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. A fire and several explosions rocked the plant on Monday night, Jan. 31, 2022, leading to evacuations of people living near the plant.

A North Carolina fertilizer plant fire forced thousands to evacuate on Monday as the potential for an explosion looms. 

Winston-Salem Fire Chief Trey Mayo said in a press conference that a one-mile evacuation zone has been implemented until at least Wednesday night, due to the potential for an explosion from the Winston Weaver Company fertilizer plant.

The department said more than 6,000 people had to evacuate due to the 600 tons of ammonium nitrate at the plant. 

Mayo said the fire is behaving as the department would like to see, but the ammonium nitrate makes the situation unpredictable. 

The fire was discovered on Monday, with dozens of firefighters rushing to the scene but needing to retreat due to the threat of an explosion. 

Mayo said the fire has more chemicals than the Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013 that killed 15 people.

“If that doesn’t convey the gravity of the situation and how serious folks need to take it, I don’t know how else to verbalize that,” Mayo said as he urged people to leave the evacuation zone. 

Mayo said it is unclear how the chemicals are stored and if enough pressure could build up to cause an explosion; however, the fire was shrinking on Tuesday. 

Poor air quality is expected, but the chemicals are more of an irritant and are not a huge threat, Mayo said. Those with respiratory ailments are being told to stay inside.

Tags Ammonium nitrate Chemical substances Fertilizer North Carolina Winston Weaver Company
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