Large explosion rocks Whitehaven industrial plant - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Large explosion rocks Whitehaven industrial plant

Whitehaven residents could hear the blast for blocks late Friday afternoon.     

They watched as the flames shot into the sky.     

James Davis says the explosion shook more than his nerves. Witness James Davis says, "I heard the sound and then I saw the whole roof of the building raise up and a ball of fire was right up under the roof."

A cloud of black smoke hung over the Pro-Service plant for hours.   

Davis placed a rag over his face, worried about the chemical stench hanging in the air.    Emergency Management figured out what sparked the fire.

Deputy Director Alvin Benson with the Memphis Fire Department says, "The primary chemical is sodium chlorate which is what has been responsible for the two explosions as we understand."

Deputy Director Alvin Benson says the greatest danger from the chemical is that it's highly flammable.     

But -- there are OTHER chemicals used inside the herbicide plant.

Benson continues, "We have remote detectors out, we have a police bomb unit.  It's gonna be a team approach."

All the workers inside got out safely, but two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.      Helicopters flew overhead to get a layout of the plant to plan an attack.     

The goal: to figure out where the other chemicals were inside and snuff out the flames.     

Meanwhile, sprinklers kept the fire burning inside at bay.

The Memphis Police Department tells Action News Five that air quality in the area has returned to normal.  Residents of this Whitehaven neighborhood are now allowed to come back outside. 

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