A fire broke out at a Dow Chemical plant located in Iberville Parish in metropolitan Baton Rouge Friday evening, July 14, 2023. At 9:30 p.m., the fire caused a significant explosion at the facility that could be heard and felt for several miles around. A significant smoke plume began to rise from the Dow Chemical plant, located in Plaquemine, Louisiana. In addition, orange flames could be seen high into the sky well into the night following the start of the fire and subsequent explosions.
At least six more explosions occurred at this Louisiana Dow Chemical plant through the night, according to Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi. These explosions each were of varying levels of severity but were nonetheless substantial. These blasts were also heard and felt throughout the surrounding area.
In the more immediate aftermath of the fire and multiple explosions, no serious injuries have been reported at the Iberville Parish Dow Chemical plant. As of late Saturday afternoon, no detailed information has yet been confirmed as to whether or not any individuals outside the premises of the chemical company facility have suffered injuries. Again, the multiple blasts could be felt in a large area around the Dow Chemical plant, a reality that is indicative of the likelihood that property damage and injuries very well could have occurred beyond the perimeters of the facility itself.
Cause of Fire that Resulted in Series of Explosions
The specific cause of the fire that caused the resulting series of at least seven explosions has not yet been confirmed as of early Saturday evening, approaching 20 hours after the start of the emergency situation. What is known is that the fire appears to have initially started at the Glycol 2 Unit at the Iberville Parish Dow Chemical plant.
Glycol is the abbreviated form of the term ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is described as a toxic, odorless, colorless, flammable, viscous liquid. Viscous generally refers to the thick nature of the substance and the fact that it does not readily flow. Ethylene glycol is used in the manufacture of polyester fibers and the formulation of antifreeze.
Shelter in Place Order Issued for Residents of Plaquemine
In the direct aftermath of the multiple explosions, officials issued a shelter in place order for the town of Plaquemine. The order affected approximately 350 residents. The order remained in place until mid-Saturday afternoon.
The shelter in place order issued primarily because of concerns for possible harmful toxins that might be contained in the smoke plume. As of a day following the start of the fire and commencement of the series of explosions, officials maintain that the residents of Plaquemine do not appear to have been endangered by any toxins that may have been contained in the smoke plume. It appears the environmental officials will continue to monitor air quality for the time being. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality together with a third-party contractor have been monitoring air quality conditions and will continue to do so until a complete all clear is appropriate.
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